By Hyung-Jin Kim Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea — The roof of a resort auditorium collapsed during a welcoming ceremony for South Korean university freshmen, killing nine and likely trapping about 10, officials said Tuesday.
The dead included seven students and an adult; officials weren’t sure yet if the ninth victim was a student. About 80 people were sent to hospitals with minor injuries, according to officials at the state-run National Emergency Management Agency who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.
Recent heavy snow, sleet and icy roads hampered rescue operations after the roof’s collapse late Monday. Emergency staff worked to pry students from beneath twisted metal and rushed the injured on stretchers to waiting ambulances. Officials initially estimated that 17 people were seriously injured but later said the injuries weren’t severe.
South Korean media reported that the heavy snowfall was believed to have resulted in the collapse, but the cause was still being investigated.
About 560 students from Busan University of Foreign Studies had been scheduled to attend a two-day freshman orientation at the Manua Ocean Resort in the southeastern city of Gyeongju and were in the auditorium when the roof collapsed, the officials said. An official had earlier incorrectly said there were a total of 1,000 students at the resort.
Many of the students managed to get out of the building by themselves, officials said.
Repeated calls to the university and the resort were unanswered.
Gyeongju is a historic city that served as the capital of one of the Korean Peninsula’s ancient kingdoms. It is a popular tourist destination.
Located at an altitude of about 500 meters (1,640 feet), the resort is at the foot of Dongdae Mountain, according to the resort’s website. Weather officials said the area has received heavy snow over the last week.