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Two dead in South Korea balcony collapse near swimming competition

Members of the US national water polo team competing in the World Aquatics Championships were celebrating in the club at the time of the collapse.

A collapsed internal balcony is seen at a nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea (Chun Jung-in/Yonhap via AP)
A collapsed internal balcony is seen at a nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea (Chun Jung-in/Yonhap via AP)

Two people have died and 16 others have been injured after an internal balcony at a nightclub in South Korea collapsed on Saturday.

Hundreds were at the nightclub in the southern city of Gwangju when the collapse occurred next to the athletes’ village for the world swimming championships.

Two South Korean men died while 16 others were injured, police said. According to a police account, the injured include 10 foreigners, eight of them athletes who were in Gwangju to participate in the tournament.

Among the athletes were three Americans, two New Zealanders, one Dutch, one Italian and one Brazilian, a police officer said.

He added that most had minor injuries but an American female water polo player required surgery. The other two Americans — a man and a woman — are also water polo players, the police officer said.

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Police stand at the door to a nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea (Lee Jin-man/AP)

Police said they detained one of the nightclub’s co-owners and summoned three other club officials to investigate whether the collapsed balcony was an unauthorised structure.

“This is an awful tragedy,” said Christopher Ramsey, chief executive officer 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.”

Among the Americans, Kaleigh Gilchrist suffered a deep left leg laceration and underwent surgery at a hospital in Gwangju, said Greg Mescall, director of communications for USA Water Polo.

He said that Paige Hauschild suffered lacerations on the right arm and Johnny Hooper on the left hand that required stitches.

Ben Hallock suffered minor scrapes on the legs, he said.

The anti-disaster agency said the injured also included two Uzbekistan exchange students. None of the injured is in life-threatening condition.

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Rescue workers inspect the collapsed balcony (Shin Dae-hee/Newsis via AP/PA)

Members of the New Zealand men’s and women’s water polo teams were also at the nightclub. The men’s captain, Matt Small, described a chaotic scene and said that his team tried to help the injured.

“(It was) business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet,” Mr Small said, speaking to New Zealand Radio Sport by phone.

“None of the boys are hurt or injured though — so that’s good. But everyone’s a bit shaken up at the moment.

“We did what we could but we couldn’t really do too much. Some of them were pretty dire cases.

“We were more so just concerned about everyone else, we were trying to do a number count and make sure all the boys were there.”

The local organising committee for the world swimming championships said that eight of the athletes attending the event were injured, most slightly.

A committee statement said seven of them had already returned to the athletes’ village after minor treatments at hospitals. It said one player had a leg lacerated and was to receive stitches at a hospital.

PA

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