Fire at hospital kills 21 in South Korea

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Seoul: A fire at a rural South Korean hospital for chronically ill elderly patients killed 21 people and injured eight in the second major fire this week as the country still mourns victims of a ferry disaster last month.

The midnight blaze at the hospital in the southwest region of Jeolla was put out relatively quickly, but most of the victims were elderly patients unable to walk or move freely, leading to the large number of casualties, fire officials said.

An 81-year-old man is in police custody and is being questioned on suspicion of arson after he was seen on surveillance camera walking into an empty room where the fire is believed to have started, a police official said by telephone.

The man has been identified as a patient at the hospital and is suffering from dementia, the official said.

All the victims were on the second floor of one building, and most of them suffered smoke inhalation, a local fire department official said.