Policemen stand outside the fire-damaged Hyosarang hospital near Janseong on May 28, 2014. A fire at the South Korean hospice for elderly, infirm patients killed 21 people.
A fire at a South Korean hospice killed 21 people and injured seven others on Wednesday, local time, officials said.
Most of the victims were elderly patients in their 70s and 80s who were suffering from Alzheimer's, stroke or other chronic diseases, although one nurse was among those killed, police and fire officials said, according to South Korean news outlet Yonhap. They died after suffocating on poisonous gas, officials told the Associated Press.
The blaze broke out on the second floor of an annex of Hyosarang Hospital in Jangseong County, around 170 miles south of Seoul, just after midnight Wednesday. Officials said 35 patients and the nurse were on the second floor at the time of the fire, which was quickly put out, the AP reported.
"I've committed a grave sin," hospital director Lee Hyung-seok told reporters, according to Yonhap. "There is no excuse when valuable lives were sacrificed."
Officials said Hyosarang Hospital recently underwent safety checks, Yonhap reported.
South Korea is grappling with another tragedy, after the Sewol ferry capsized off the country's southern coast last month. Of the 476 people on board, there were more than 330 students and teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan, a city near Seoul. The final death toll is expected to be around 300.