Seoul, Mar 5 (EFE).- Nearly 700 people remained evacuated as of Saturday due to a massive wildfire that has broken out along South Korea’s eastern coast, with firefighters still trying to put out the blaze which has displaced over 6,000 people so far.
The fire, which began on Friday morning at a road close to a mountain in the coastal Uljin county, had burned around 8,570 hectares of mainly forest land by Saturday afternoon in the area – situated around 330 kms southeast of Seoul – and in the neighboring city of Samcheok, forest authorities and the firefighters reported.
The blaze is spreading due to strong winds and dry weather, and has destroyed at least 153 houses and 53 other structures, although no casualties have been reported so far, local news agency Yonhap reported.
Over 6,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes at one time or the other as the blaze has progressed, although on Friday only 673 remained unable to return to their houses.
The fire briefly threatened a nuclear plant in Uljin, the largest liquid natural gas production facility of the region in Samcheok as well as power supply lines, but firefighters managed to prevent it from reaching the facilities, authorities said.
By Saturday around 4,300 firefighters, 46 helicopters and 273 fire trucks had been pressed into action for extinguishing the fire, with the contingent focusing its efforts on protecting the nuclear and LNG facilities to prevent potential disasters.
The firefighters are facing difficulties in controlling the fire due to its massive size and changes in the wind direction, which could lead to more evacuations.
Korean Forest Service chief Choi Byeong-am told reporters on Saturday that the service was focusing on controlling the fire spreading towards the south, adding that he expected all hotspots to be brought under control by sunset.
Over the past 24 hours, other fires have been reported in the cities of Gangneung and Yeongwol, also situated on the eastern coast, which led to blockages on a coastal road and a railway line.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for ramping up efforts to prevent casualties, protect key industrial facilities and extinguishing the blaze as soon as possible. EFE