Trapped firefighter found dead in Coupang warehouse

Inspectors enter a Coupang warehouse in Icheon, 80 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to check the building's safety on Saturday. (Yonhap)

Inspectors enter a Coupang warehouse in Icheon, 80 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to check the building’s safety on Saturday. (Yonhap)

ICHEON (Yonhap) — A firefighter who was trapped in a fire that tore through a Coupang Inc. warehouse was found dead by rescue workers Saturday, officials said.

Kim Dong-shik, 52, was found in the second-floor basement of the e-commerce giant’s four-story building in Icheon, 80 kilometers southeast of Seoul, shortly after rescue workers resumed their search for the missing firefighter following a safety inspection of the building.

Kim entered the basement around 11:20 a.m. Thursday with four of his colleagues to search for people caught in the fire that broke out earlier that morning. The blaze has yet to be fully put out.

A search for Kim was suspended the same day as the fire began to spread throughout the building.

The fire broke out in the second-floor basement and was thought to be under control several hours later. It quickly spread, however, as the flames jumped between large amounts of flammable packing material, including papers, boxes, plastics and stickers.

Authorities believe the fire was caused by a spark from a power outlet, citing closed-circuit TV footage.

Firefighters have been using water cannons to put out the fire from the outside instead of entering the building out of concern it could soon collapse. The second floor began to buckle Friday.

The warehouse handles deliveries nationwide and a Coupang official said the company has been trying to minimize inconvenience to customers by distributing them to other centers.

Coupang CEO Kang Han-seung said in a statement Friday that the company apologizes for “causing concern” and for the damage caused by the fire.

He also expressed hope for the safe return of the trapped firefighter and promised to closely cooperate with the authorities in investigating the fire.

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