April 05, 2019 10:06
Forest fires raged through mountainous Gangwon Province east of Seoul on Thursday, killing at least one person and forcing more than 3,000 people from their homes.
The flames have burned at least 2.5 million sq.m of forest and destroyed over 120 homes and warehouses.
The fire started in Goseong and strong winds blowing 15 m/s spread it quickly. A high school dormitory 2.5 km from downtown Sokcho was partially damaged, but students had already been evacuated, so there were no casualties. But many other homes and commercial buildings completely burned down.
Fire trucks from across the country were mobilized to fight the conflagration.
Firefighters received a call at around 7:17 p.m. on Thursday that a transformer on a road in Goseong had exploded. Around 80 firefighters were dispatched to the scene, but strong winds made it impossible to contain the flames.
Homes nearby were evacuated as the flames rapidly spread to Sokcho, where residents stayed up all night watching the flames light up the outskirts.
One 53-year-old resident surnamed Ha said, "I packed up my bags and left my house with my family since there's no way of telling which direction the fire will spread because the wind was so strong." Another resident said, "The flames were so huge that the entire city lit up like daytime."
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon ordered officials to cooperate closely with regional authorities, the military and police to mobilize as much personnel and equipment as possible to extinguish the blaze.
The government declared a state of national disaster on Friday as daylight revealed whole neighborhoods turned to ashes.
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