At least 41 people have been killed in a blaze at a hospital in , with dozens more injured, in one of the country’s deadliest fires in recent years.
Videos posted on social media showed a patient hanging on to a rope dangling from a helicopter above the hospital in the south-eastern city of Miryang, and another crawling out of a window to climb down a ladder.
Other footage showed a helicopter flying above the building, which was engulfed by heavy grey smoke and surrounded by multiple fire trucks.
The six-storey structure houses a nursing home as well as the hospital.
A spokesman for the national fire agency said more than 70 other people had been injured, 13 of them critically.
Almost 200 patients are were inside the hospital building and adjacent nursing home when the fire broke out at about 7.30am local time, the Yonhap news agency said.
Almost all of the victims appeared to have died from smoke inhalation, it added.
The South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, called an emergency meeting with senior aides to discuss the response to the fire, according to Yonhap.
“Two nurses said they had seen fire suddenly erupting in the emergency room,” said fire chief Choi Man-woo, but the cause of the blaze was not immediately known.
All the remaining patients had been evacuated, he added.
“The victims came both from the hospital and the nursing home. Some died on their way to another hospital.”
Pictures showed survivors being brought out wrapped in blankets, and firefighters picking their way through the blackened shell of the building after the blaze was extinguished.
Around 200 people were in the Sejong Hospital building when the fire broke out, police said.
The fire came only a month after 29 people were killed in an inferno at a fitness club in the South Korean city of Jecheon – a disaster blamed on insufficient emergency exits, flammable finishing materials and illegally parked cars blocking access to emergency vehicles.
The worst fire in recent times was an arson attack on a subway station in the southeastern city of Daegu in 2003 that killed 192 people dead and injured 150 others.