90 Houses Destroyed, 6,000 People Refuge

South Korea, Saturday (5/3), deployed nearly 2,000 firefighters and soldiers to extinguish a massive forest fire that engulfed the eastern coastal region. The fires temporarily threaten the country’s nuclear power plants (NPP) and liquefied natural gas power plants.

The fire started Friday (4/3) morning on a mountain in the seaside city of Uljin and spread over more than 3,000 hectares to the nearby town of Samcheok. The unfortunate event destroyed at least 90 houses and other buildings and displaced nearly 6,000 people.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths. South Korea’s Ministry of Interior and Safety said officials were investigating the cause of the fire, which developed rapidly amid strong winds and dry conditions.

As of Saturday (5/3) morning, more than 1,950 firefighters and soldiers as well as 51 helicopters and 273 vehicles were deployed to extinguish the fire. Hundreds of firefighters worked overnight to successfully prevent the fire from spreading to the LNG production facility in Samcheok.

President Moon Jae-in issued a warning Friday (4/3) afternoon when the fire reached the limits of the Uljin nuclear power plant, forcing operators to reduce operations by 50 percent and cut some power lines as a precaution.

Hundreds of firefighters were sent to the plant and brought the fire under control before winds carried it north towards Samcheok, said Kang Dae-hoon, an official with the National Fire Service. [ah]