Philippines News Agency
SEOUL — South Korea has seen a higher death rate among its firefighters than Japan or the United States over the past five years, data showed Thursday, prompting calls for more systematic responses to disasters.
According to the data compiled by the National Emergency Management Agency, an average of seven firefighters died each year between 2007 and 2011, marking 1.85 deaths out of every 10,000 firemen.
As of 2011, there were 37,826 firemen in South Korea, with 159,354 in Japan and 344,050 in the U.S., according to the agency.
In 2012, seven officers died while on duty, with four of them losing their lives while putting out fires, the agency added.
Japan saw 11.2 deaths among its firefighters per year on average during the 2007-2011 period, but the figure represents 0.7 deaths per every 10,000 firemen.
For the U.S., the yearly average of the death toll per 10,000 firefighters came to 1.01, the data showed.
"South Korea suffers a shortage of manpower dealing with such disasters, and lacks systematic guidelines or on-scene command structures," said Kwon Soon-kyung, head of the fire service bureau in the agency.
During a policy briefing to the presidential transition committee held in mid-January, the agency stressed the need to increase the number of firefighters by 4,000 each year over the next five years.
As part of effort to build a safe society, President-elect Park Geun-hye also vowed to raise the number in phases."With an aim to bring down the death toll to zero, we will also come up with diverse measures including replacing old equipment, improving the commanding system and strengthening safety education," he added.
The agency also said it plans to test-run a location-tracking system in the second half of this year to monitor location information of firefighters on duty so as to guarantee their safety.
Last month, a 22-year-old fireman was killed after falling from a building while extinguishing a blaze in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.
Two weeks later, a 43-year-old firefighter also lost his life while on duty after evacuating his two colleagues from the scene of a fire in Goyang, according to police.
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