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SEOUL, April 30 (Reuters) - Three construction workers died of suffocation following a leak of nitrogen gas at a SK Hynix Inc plant under construction, the South Korean memory chip maker and authorities said on Thursday.
The three workers, who were not directly employed by SK Hynix, were found unconscious around mid-day at the plant in Icheon, a city southeast of Seoul.
SK Hynix expressed regret over the deaths and said it was cooperating with authorities to pinpoint the cause.
While nitrogen is not itself poisonous, leaks of the gas are dangerous in sealed areas as they rapidly reduce the concentration of oxygen in the air.
The workers appeared to have entered an enclosed area without knowing the nitrogen gas valve was open, an Icheon police officer told Reuters.
The accident comes about a month after 13 workers at the same plant were sent to hospital due to a gas leak, though a company spokesman said none of those workers were seriously injured and the gas that leaked at the time was not life-threatening.
As the plant is not yet operational, the world's second-largest DRAM chip maker has suffered no production disruption. (Reporting by Sohee Kim; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)