By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) – South Korea witnessed another workplace tragedy Wednesday, as four laborers were killed and 10 others were injured due to the collapse of a subway construction site within Seoul’s commuter belt.
The victims had been working 15 meters (49 feet) below ground in Namyangju east of the capital early in the morning -- officials fear the death toll could rise further as several of the injured were left in a critical condition, according to sources cited by news agency Yonhap.
Emergency responders told local media that they were looking into the cause of the incident, which happened at around 7.30 am. (2230GMT Tuesday) -- initial indications pointed to a gas explosion.
It was not immediately known whether the laborers were contracted directly with the site’s managing company POSCO E&C.
The issue of subway worker safety had already been particularly pressing this week following the death of a 19-year-old subcontractor employee while performing maintenance for Seoul Metro last Saturday.
He was caught between a screen door and a train in what was the third fatal accident of its kind since 2013.
The country’s main political parties had promised Tuesday to work on ensuring safe conditions for subway workers, especially in the case of subcontractors.
South Korea remains highly sensitive about public accidents following the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster, which claimed more than 300 lives -- most of the victims were high school students.
A series of other tragedies since then have prompted questions over the extent to which officials and companies nationwide have learned from past safety lapses.