Firefighters extinguish large parts of South Korean blaze

Firefighters extinguish large parts of South Korean blaze

SEOUL, South Korea  — Firefighters extinguished much of a forest fire burning on South Korea’s mountainous northern coast Friday after the blaze destroyed 120 homes and forced more than 3,500 to flee the region that hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics.

One person was killed by the fire, and another person was fatally struck by an object blown over by the high winds fanning the flames.

The fire likely started Thursday night from a transformer spark near a resort in the town of Goseong and then spread to the mountains, according to Choi Jin-ho, a fire captain at Gangwon Fire Headquarters. Gangwon province governs the Olympic host city of Pyeongchang and is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Seoul.

Videos posted to social media in South Korea showed tall flames rising from large areas of forest, the air filled with embers and debris as cars drove by the raging fire. News photos showed a burnt-out bus, fire engulfing a hill, and residents evacuating apartment complexes and filing into gyms.

Choi said nearly 2,400 people in Goseong and almost 1,250 in the city of Sokcho were evacuated.

Authorities said a 60-year-old man died because of the fire, and a woman in her 70s died after being hit by wide-angle mirror on a road that fell because of strong winds.

The region is close to the border with North Korea. South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Friday it plans to inform North Korea of details about the forest fires.

The Ministry of the Interior and Safety said about 120 homes were burned. The Korea Forestry Service said about 250 hectares (1 square mile) of forest was estimated to have burned in Goseong alone.

About 20 firefighting helicopters and 5,600 firefighting personnel were being deployed, the ministry said. The fire also caused the temporary shutdown of a highway and delays in train services from Ganeung to Seoul.

Another Gangwon fire official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules, said at least 11 people were being treated for injuries. The official wouldn’t comment on the nature of the injuries or how many were serious.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he called for all available resources to be deployed.

Fire brigades from all major surrounding regions, including Seoul, were reportedly ordered to send trucks to help fight the blaze.

The fire hasn’t threatened the Olympic sports facilities, including the main venues in Pyeongchang, the alpine center in Jeongseon, and the skating centers in seaside Gangneung.



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