Events turned horrifyingly tragic for more than 560 first year college students near the South Korea city of Gyeongju when a roof collapsed, leaving 10 people dead and more than 100 injured. The incident took place on Monday night and nine of the 10 who were killed were students. The family and friends of the dead and of the other students began to gather in the hospital morgue at Ulsan, a neighboring city. Nerves were frayed as anxious parents tried to find out about the welfare of their children. Local officials have now stated that all the students have been accounted for. South Korean president Park Geun-Hye, has asked for a full investigation at a cabinet meeting and called the incident “heart-rending”.
More than 500 first year university students from South Korea’s Busan University of Foreign Studies had gathered over the weekend at the Manua Ocean Resort at the foot of the Dongdae Mountain. They were there as part of a welcome and orientation program. The young people had just finished dinner and had reassembled in the auditorium when disaster struck. Local media reports indicate that the collapse occurred around 21:15 local time. The students noticed that a crack had appeared in the ceiling. A student who was present in the hall told reporters that the ceiling crashed down in front, near the stage. A lot of them managed to get out of the building on their own but those right up in front were not so lucky.
The roof collapse that killed ten people and injured over 100 students in South Korea is believed to be caused by accumulated snow on the roof. According to weather officials, the region has seen the heaviest snowfall this month than in the last three years since measurements began. Although rescue and emergency personnel worked through Monday night and are still searching the area; their efforts, too, were hindered by ice-covered roads and falling snow. The building in which the students had gathered was just a pre-fabricated structure and questions are now being asked about why the snow was not cleared from the roof.
A spokesman for the Kolon Group who owns the resort said that the building had not been checked for safety by an external agency, since the time it was completed in 2009, as it was not required by law. He also said that Kolon had conducted a monthly safety inspection on the building by their own people. The chairman of the Kolon Group visited the site and expressed his sorrow, saying they felt heavily responsible that youngsters who “were about to begin college life died before their dreams began to blossom.” He also said that the construction company who built the auditorium started the work in June 2009, and the building was being used by September 2009. Irrespective of where the blame game ends, for the families of the 10 people who have died and the more than 100 students who were injured when a roof collapsed on them in South Korea, it is a nightmarish marker to what should have been the happiest years of their lives.
By Grace Stephen