8 Japanese killed in S. Korea fire: officials

November 15, 2009 5:39 pm 

BUSAN, South Korea, Nov. 15 — South Korean firefighting officials said Sunday eight of the 10 people killed in a fire Saturday at an indoor shooting range in the port city of Busan are assumed to be Japanese.

The eight are likely those belonging to two tour groups as their whereabouts remain unknown after the fire that also left six others injured.

Twenty-five people, kin of nine Japanese men believed to be involved in the fire, arrived in the city Sunday afternoon, Japanese officials said.

The nine are believed to be a group of former classmates at the same elementary and junior high schools in Unzen of Nagasaki Prefecture and were partaking in a tour organized by Shimatetsu Kanko of Shimabara in the prefecture.

Of the nine, three were injured in the fire. They are identified as Masaru Kasahara, 37, Yohei Harada, 36, and Akira Shimada, 37.

The eight dead are believed to be Hideteru Araki, 36, Atsunobu Inada, 37, Akira Okubo, 37, Kazunobu Nakao, 37, Taiki Maeda, 36, Hidetaka Miyazaki, 36, Masahiro Ochiai, 55, and Masanori Nagahama, 57.

Ochiai and Nagashima belonged to another Japanese tour group, and the rest of the eight belonged to the Shimatetsu Kanko tour.

Since some of the bodies are severely burned, police plan to conduct DNA testing to confirm their identities. The police have indicated they do not believe the fire was a case of arson.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama urged South Korea on Sunday to provide information about the fire expeditiously when he met briefly with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, and Lee agreed to do so, Japanese officials said.

Lee was quoted by the officials as telling Hayotama that it is regrettable there were fatalities, saying South Korea is investigating the case to prevent recurrence.

The fire broke out around 2:25 p.m. Saturday and swept through the second-floor shooting range of a five-story building before being extinguished about 30 minutes later, according to the police.

Busan is a popular destination for Japanese tourists. (PNA/Kyodo)

DCT/rsm

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