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Families of fire victims to be paid US$256,000
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The families of the 40 people killed in last week's warehouse fire in South Korea are to receive average compensation payments of 240 million won (US$256,000) each from the facility's owner, who faces legal action for allegedly violating safety laws, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency said yesterday.


The Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, which is still questioning the owner of the refrigerated warehouse, who has only been identified by her family name Gong, planned to announce an interim report on what it called the "man-made disaster" later yesterday, according to Yonhap.


Forty people, including 12 Chinese, were killed and 10 others injured in the deadly blaze in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, which ripped through the two-story Korea 2000 warehouse under construction last Monday.


Most of the victims were daily wage earners, many of whom were migrant workers from China, working in unsafe conditions.


Among the 40 dead, 19 have yet to be identified, Yonhap said. "The investigation is going to be completed soon, and we are preparing for legal proceedings," Park Hak-geun, head of the investigation team of the provincial police agency, told reporters on Sunday.


The warehouse owner and several managers will be charged with violating fire safety laws, he said. Police allege the heavy casualties were partly caused by faulty safety equipment in the building.


After late-night talks that continued until early yesterday, the families of the victims reached a deal with Korea 2000 to receive 240 million won each, with the exception of one family that vowed to file a lawsuit against the warehouse, Yonhap said.


President Hu sends envoy


Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who was visiting Seoul as President Hu Jintao's special envoy, described the blaze at Icheon 80 kilometers south of Seoul as a "heart-sickening incident."


"Many Chinese people come to South Korea for work and they contribute to the development of South Korea," he said before closed-door talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon began.


The South Korean government said it had issued visas to 34 ethnic Koreans in China whose relatives were killed or injured in the Incheon fire.


(China Daily, agencies January 15, 2008)

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