Fire breaks out at Lotte Tower

June 8, 2015
A firefighter inspects the site of a fire at Lotte Mart inside the second Lotte World in southern Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)

A firefighter inspects the site of a fire at Lotte Mart inside the second Lotte World in southern Seoul, Monday. (Yonhap)

By Lee Kyung-min

A fire was put out minutes after it broke out at a branch of Lotte Mart located inside the second Lotte Tower in southern Seoul, early Monday, company officials said.

This was the latest of a series of safety-related incidents at the 123-story skyscraper since its partial opening in October 2014.

No casualties were reported during the fire, but some 70 people watching movies at the time in the same building had to be immediately evacuated, officials added.

“The fire was extinguished before it became bigger. Fortunately no one was hurt, and not much financial damage was incurred,” a company official said.

An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the fire. Company officials suspect that it was caused by an overheated refrigerator in the grocery section in the second basement of the discount retail chain.

Firefighters and company safety authorities arrived at the scene immediately after the smoke detector alarm went off.

Upon being reported, police and firefighters from Songpa Fire Station conducted an on-site inspection to determine if any safety lapses contributed to the incident.

All refrigerators are being inspected, officials added.

“We are sorry for the incident. We will try our best to ensure the safety of the visitors by preventing such incidents from recurring,” said a company official.

However, few are inclined to believe the company’s hollow apology because it has failed to implement proper measures to fix problems amid repeated “accidents” since October 2014.

Monday’s fire occurred only a month after two construction workers sustained burns to their faces and limbs while working on the eighth floor of the complex on May 15, three days after the reopening of the complex.

At the time, operations of the tower’s aquarium and movie theaters had barely resumed after being slapped with a five-month suspension by the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) over leaks from the water tank and shaking from an unidentified source in the theaters there.

Earlier, two customers were hit in the basement mall by a two-meter glass door that came off its hinges.

In February, Lotte launched a safety management committee vowing to make safety its top priority, but many have cast doubts on the efficacy of the move so far.

A Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) official said that the incident is regrettable, especially following the warning the city government gave to the firm and the subsequent shut down.

“We urge the company to pay far more attention to safety management. It is still recovering from a loss of public trust due to the past incidents,” a city official said.

Construction of the skyscraper is scheduled to be completed next year.