South Korea: Fire at Lithium Battery Factory Kills at Least 22 People

Fire draws attention to poor safety of lithium batteries

It has long been known that the lithium batteries used in electric vehicles are extremely dangerous and can cause fires and explosions. A dramatic demonstration of still inadequate and unsafe energy transition technologies arrived Monday, June 24, from South Korea, where at least 22 people were killed in a horrific fire that broke out at a lithium battery factory owned by Aricell in the city of Hwaseong, south of the capital Seoul.

It took many dozens of firefighters more than four hours to put out the blaze. In addition to safety concerns about lithium electric batteries, the fire has raised the issue of immigration. As South Korea’s Yonhap news agency wrote, the dead were mostly foreign nationals: 18 Chinese and one from Laos (the nationality of one person has not yet been determined), with only two of the dead being South Korean citizens. Three other people were injured, two of whom are in serious condition.

According to the initial investigation cited by Hwaseong Fire Chief Kim Jin-young, “the fire was caused by the sudden explosion of several lithium battery cells located in the warehouse.” The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined. The warehouse, which spanned several floors, contained more than 35,000 batteries ready to be shipped to car plants around the world.

Aricell’s plant, which employed about 100 people, was one of the most modern: built in 2020, in addition to car batteries, it also assembled batteries for various types of electronic equipment.