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Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009
Seven Japanese died in fire, DNA tests confirm
By JUN HONGO
Local authorities investigating the deadly fire Saturday at a shooting range in Busan, South Korea, have verified through DNA tests that seven of the victims were Japanese nationals.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said Wednesday that police contacted the Japanese Consulate General in Busan with results of the tests. Relatives of the victims have been briefed on the DNA results, he added.
Hirano said that the cause of the deadly blaze has not been determined yet, but arson has not been ruled out. The South Korean government has promised a thorough investigation.
Based on witness reports of a loud explosion before the fire broke out, Busan police are looking into whether gunpowder was involved.
They are also pursuing a case of professional negligence, as the range reportedly lacked proper safety equipment.
Seoul has barred the owner and manager of the shooting range from leaving the country.
Hirano said Tokyo will support the victims' kin through the local consulate, and will consider compensation.
"I would like to express my condolences and pray that those injured will recover soon," Hirano said.
The fire, which claimed 11 lives, broke out on the second floor of a five-story building. Reports initially said eight Japanese tourists were believed dead, but one survived the fire.
The initial death toll was 10 but rose Wednesday when a South Korean victim died in a hospital. Moon Min Ja, 67, had suffered severe burns and died of heart failure, a hospital official was quoted by the Yonhap news agency as saying.
Most of the Japanese victims were in a group of former schoolmates at a Nagasaki elementary and junior high school.
They have been identified as Hideteru Araki, 36, Atsunobu Inada, 37, Akira Okubo, 37, Taiki Maeda, 36, Hidetaka Miyazaki, 36, Masahiro Ochiai, 55, and Masanori Nagahama, 57.
Also Wednesday, South Korean police and fire officials allowed the media to view the charred shooting range for the first time.
The interior was severely gutted, especially a lounge where many of the victims were found.
The ammunition storage area suffered only minor damage, and computers in a repair room were unharmed.
Information from Kyodo added