SKorea investigates cause of shooting range fire

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2009 5:57 AM

South Korean police and fire officials on Sunday investigated the cause of a fire that raced through an indoor shooting gallery, killing 10 people including eight Japanese tourists.

The fire Saturday occurred in a five-story building in the southeastern port city of Busan, about 200 miles (325 kilometers) from Seoul.

The dead included eight Japanese male tourists and their South Korean tour guide, the Busan Fire Department said. The 10th fatality was believed to be a South Korean employee of the shooting range. Six people were seriously injured.

Department spokesman Lee Young-chul said all 10 bodies were severely burned.

Police and fire officers examined the site Sunday with National Institute of Science Investigation officials, but the cause of the blaze was still unclear, according to local police.

The country's police chief told reporters in Busan that his agency was looking at all possibilities including arson. Police said witnesses testified they heard a loud bang different from the sound of a gun at about the time the fire started.

"We'll absolutely investigate that possibility" of arson, National Police Agency head Kang Hee-rak said, according to the YTN television network.

South Korean tourism minister Yu In-chon apologized and offered "words of sincere condolence" to the victims and their family members.

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South Korean and Japanese media reports said the Japanese victims were former junior high school classmates, now in their 30s, from Nagasaki prefecture.

They took a ferry to Busan on Saturday for a two-day visit, the reports said.

Family members of the deceased and injured Japanese arrived in Busan on Sunday. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-chan met with them, officials said.

Busan police said they will conduct DNA tests to identify the bodies.


Associated Press writer Jay Alabaster in Tokyo contributed to this report.