SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The roof of a resort auditorium collapsed during a welcoming ceremony for South Korean university freshmen, killing at least eight students and seriously injuring 17 others, officials said Tuesday.
About 10 people were feared trapped as heavy snow and ice hampered rescue operations. Emergency staff worked to pry students from beneath twisted metal and rushed the injured on stretchers to waiting ambulances.
Fifty-eight other students received minor injuries after the collapse late Monday, according to an official at the state-run National Emergency Management Agency who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. He confirmed the eight deaths and said rescuers feared about 10 other people were trapped, but didn't provide further details on injuries.
Roads to the resort were icy, making it difficult for rescuers to reach it, according to police.
South Korean media reported that the heavy snowfall was believed to have resulted in the collapse, but the cause was still being investigated.
The collapse came as about 1,000 students from Busan University of Foreign Studies gathered for freshman orientation at the Manua Ocean Resort in the southeastern city of Gyeongju. More than 500 of the students were in the auditorium when the roof collapsed, the official said.
Many of the students managed to get out of the building by themselves, he said.
Repeated calls to the university and the resort were unanswered.
Gyeongju is a historic city that served as the capital of one of the Korean Peninsula's ancient kingdoms. It is a popular tourist destination.
Located at an altitude of about 500 meters (1,640 feet), the resort is at the foot of Dongdae Mountain, according to the resort's website. Weather officials said the area has received heavy snow over the last week.