Inside the nightclub after the balcony collapse.
Inside the nightclub after the balcony collapse.

Two killed in nightclub hell near athletes' village

MEMBERS of the Australian women's water polo team have emerged unscathed after the second floor of a nightclub in Gwangju, South Korea collapsed, killing two people.

Nine athletes competing at the world aquatics championships were among those injured when the structure fell at about 3am AEST on Saturday, pinning down some nightclub patrons.

The Korean Fire Department said two South Koreans died and 17 people were injured, including four athletes from the US, two from New Zealand and one each from the Netherlands, Italy and Brazil.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said a number of the victims underwent minor surgery.

Australian women's water polo team members were at the nightclub, which is next to the athletes' village, celebrating their bronze medal finish at the championship, but none were injured.

The collapsed internal balcony at the nightclub in Gwangju.
The collapsed internal balcony at the nightclub in Gwangju.

"Water Polo Australia can confirm that members of the Australian women's water polo team were celebrating their world championship bronze medal win at an establishment in Gwangju, South Korea last night when part of the balcony collapsed," a Water Polo Australia statement said.

"All Australian players are safe and uninjured."

No members of the Australian swimming team were present.

Swimming Australia said their athletes would be avoiding the Gwangju nightclub district when their competition concludes on Sunday, instead organising a team dinner.

"We are aware of an incident occurring at a nightclub in Gwangju overnight and sending our thoughts to all involved," a Swimming Australia statement said.

"Following the conclusion of the swimming competition we have a team dinner planned with the entire touring party so will be together for the evening."

Yonhap said about 100 people were on the second floor of the nightclub when it collapsed.

It said more than 350 people were in the club at the time.

Gwangju police are investigating.

Rescue workers inspect the collapsed internal balcony.
Rescue workers inspect the collapsed internal balcony.

The Americans are a male water polo player and a female diver, an agency official said, requesting anonymity because he wasn't authorised to speak to the media.

The water polo player was released from a hospital after a minor treatment. The American diver's injury was more serious and requires surgery, he said.

The official refused to provide more details, citing privacy. He said none of the injured is in life-threatening condition. He said a final tally for the number of injured could increase because some went to hospitals on their own without reporting to authorities.

"This is an awful tragedy," said Christopher Ramsey, CEO 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."

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 the chaos and said that his team tried to help the injured.

"(It was) business as usual and then it literally collapsed beneath our feet," 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," he said.

"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.

The organising committee said it would not disclose other personal information about the athletes at the request of their national teams.