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September 21, 2017

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South Korean roof collapse kills 10, injures 100 at college meeting

GYEONGJU, South Korea -- Emergency staff worked through the night in snow and sleet to pull survivors from the debris of an auditorium whose roof collapsed under the weight of snow, killing 10 people and injuring 100, most of them recently enrolled freshmen of a South Korean university, officials said Tuesday.

The students had gathered at the auditorium of a holiday resort for a welcoming ceremony Monday night when the roof came crashing down, leaving twisted metal and debris of concrete and wood.

Weather officials say the southeastern region saw the heaviest snowfall this month since measurements began three years ago.

Bad weather hampered rescuers who had to reach the site outside the historic tourist city of Gyeongju on icy roads. Working all night, they extricated survivors, many of them injured, and rushed them on stretchers to waiting ambulances.

Family members and friends of the dead gathered in a hospital morgue in the nearby city of Ulsan.

Kim Pan-su fought back tears as he talked about his daughter, Kim Jin-sol, who was one of the dead. He said he had called his daughter's friends when he couldn't reach her.

"Her friends said that she ... was safe but that she couldn't escape. This is the only thing I was repeatedly told," Kim said. "I felt that something was weird, so I went to the university ... I had just parked my car in the parking lot when they called the names of people that died, including my daughter's."

President Park Geun-hye ordered an investigation as well as safety checks of buildings near the country's east coast, which has seen heavy snow this winter. The resort's owner, Kolon Group, believes that snow likely caused the collapse but is examining more specific causes.

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