Seoul, April 5 (IANS) A massive fire has ripped through around 500 hectares of forest and urban areas along the northeastern coast of South Korea, killing at least one person, damaging hundreds of buildings and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people.
South Korea declared a national emergency on Friday in response to “one of the largest wildfires on record”, Yonhap news agency reported.
Over 13,000 rescue officials from across the nation battled to contain the fire that started on Thursday evening in a mountainous county of Goseong, 160 km northeast of Seoul, before spreading to neighbouring Sokcho, Gangneung and Donghae cities within hours and destroying several hundred buildings.
It is believed the fire originated from a spark at a transformer near Goseong in Gangwon Province, northeast of Seoul.
One man died in the blaze and 35 others were injured, with at least a few thousands left displaced and damage piling up to what authorities described as “an unprecedented extent”.
President Moon Jae-in urged his government to make all-out efforts to contain the fire and help the victims. He told officials to consider designating the blaze-hit areas as special disaster zones. That would entitle the locations and their residents to speedy, special government support, the agency reported.
Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government earmarked 4.25 billion won ($3.7 million) for emergency recovery efforts.
Officials said that although the main fire — in Goseong — was brought under control, others were still burning.
The last time a disaster of a similar scale hit South Korea was in 2007, when a crude oil carrier leaked thousands of tonnes of oil into the sea off the west coast.