Two South Koreans have died and several others, including athletes attending the world aquatic championships, have been injured after a structure collapsed in a nightclub in the city of Gwangju early on Saturday, a fire department official has said.
The deaths happened when a two-level structure in the club, which is next to the athletes’ village, collapsed at about 2am local time, hitting and pinning revellers, the official said.
Hundreds were inside the seven-storey nightclub at the time. The BBC reported the two people killed were aged 38 and 27, and were not competitors at the championships.
Yonhap news agency reported that nine athletes competing in the 2019 Fina aquatic World Championships were injured, though none of them seriously. Their injuries ranged from bruising to lacerations on their hands or feet, the agency said.
Matt Small, captain of New Zealand’s water polo team, said some of the cases were “pretty dire”.
“We were just dancing and then the next minute we dropped five to six metres and everyone started rushing out of the club after that,” he told New Zealand radio.
He said he thinks they fell “on top of the heads of other people” below them.
The injured athletes included four people from the United States, two from New Zealand, and one each from the Netherlands, Italy and Brazil, Yonhap said, citing city and fire department officials.
The US Water Polo team has said all its athletes were safe and accounted for.
Water Polo Australia confirmed that while Australian teammembers were also at the nightclub, none were injured.
Video of the aftermath appears to show dozens of people on the lower floor of the bar trying to hold up sections of the collapsed balcony. Screams and shouts can be heard from the crowd.
“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, CEO of USA Water Polo. “Players from our men’s and women’s teams were celebrating the women’s world championship victory when the collapse occurred at a public club. Our hearts go out to the victims of the crash and their families.”
Ramsay said all US water polo athletes were safe and accounted for.
The fire department official confirmed some of the athletes had been hurt but said it was too soon to comment on how many, or how many people were injured in total.
A spokesman for Gwangju city could not be immediately reached.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.