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Wildfire triggers mass evacuation in South Korea

March 5, 2022

A wildfire in an eastern coastal area of South Korea has forced the evacuation of more than 6,000 people. The blaze temporarily threatened a nuclear power station, with the president issuing an alarm.

 Car driving on a road flanked by flames
A major wildfire has devasted a large area on South Korea's eastern coastImage: Yonhap/picture alliance

Thousands of South Korean firefighters and troops on Saturday worked to put out a large wildfire that has spread across more than 6,000 hectares (almost 15,000 acres) since breaking out on a mountain on the country's eastern coast.

The fire threatened at one stage to reach a nuclear power plant and South Korea's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) production complex, but firefighters brought the blaze under control before it reached the facilities, according to officials cited by Yonhap news agency.

At least 159 homes and 46 other buildings have been destroyed, and some 6,200 people have been evacuated from the affected region, according to The Associated Press.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

Helicopter dumping water on a hill
More than 60 helicopters are helping extinguish the blazeImage: Yonhap/picture alliance

How has the fire progressed?

The fire began on Friday morning on a mountain in the coastal town of Uljin, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) southeast of the capital, Seoul, and was then driven by winds northward to the nearby city of Samcheok.

The fire prompted President Moon Jae-in to issue an alarm on Friday afternoon as flames reached the surroundings of the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant in Uljin.

 The alarm was lifted after firefighters successfully prevented the blaze from spreading to the facility.

Aerial view of the fire burning in woodland
The fire has forced thousands to leave their homesImage: Yonhap/picture alliance

The cause of the fire, which grew rapidly in strong winds and dry conditions, is being investigated by officials, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said.

Yonhap cited KFS chief Choi Byeong-am as saying that firefighters aimed "to bring all flames under control by sunset."

tj/fb (AP, AFP)