May 1 (UPI) — South Korean authorities say autopsies have been completed on 15 of the 39 people killed in a fire at a warehouse in the city of Icheon on Wednesday , and are recommending three more autopsies.
The victims, all construction workers, were at the warehouse when the explosion of a flammable material took place.
Southern Gyeonggi Province police agency said other analyses, including blood samples taken from 23 victims indicate most had died from carbon monoxide poisoning, which happens during smoke inhalation. Only three of the 23 showed carboxyhemoglobin levels of less than 20 percent, according to the blood sample analyses, local news service Newsis reported Friday.
The three people who did not show carboxyhemoglobin levels of 20 percent of higher, or when poisoning is considered to have occurred, are being recommended for autopsy, according to the report.
The advice from police authorities has angered victims’ families, however.
Performing an autopsy on the victims would be taboo, and equivalent to “killing them twice,” one family source said, according to Newsis.
Rescue workers may still be searching for victims. According to the BBC, the death toll could increase as 78 people were occupying the building at the time of the fire.
The administration of President Moon Jae-in has responded quickly to the disaster. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun called for the deployment of “all necessary personnel and resources” to address the situation.
Other officials are challenging reports they were not present at the site of the fire.
Icheon Mayor Um Tae-jun denied he had left the site on the day of the fire, rejecting reports he was not at the warehouse, according to Newsis.
Um said he would take legal action against media organizations unless they take down the reports and issue an apology.
The ruling Democratic Party came into power following the ouster of President Park Geun-hye, who was largely blamed for the sinking of the ferry Sewol.
The accident at sea killed 299 people on board, most of them students on a field trip.