Photo taken on April 4, 2019 shows the massive blaze in Goseong of Gangwon province of northeastern South Korea. An unprecedented fire engulfed the mountainous region along the northeastern coast of South Korea, killing one people and injuring dozens of others. As of 4 p.m. local time Friday (0700 GMT), one was confirmed dead, with 34 others wounded. Over 500 hectares of land were gutted by the blaze, while about 300 houses and buildings were devastated. (Xinhua/NEWSIS/Korean Forest Service)
SEOUL, April 5 (Xinhua) -- An unprecedented fire engulfed the mountainous region along the northeastern coast of South Korea, killing one people and injuring dozens of others.
As of 4 p.m. local time Friday (0700 GMT), one was confirmed dead, with 34 others wounded. Over 500 hectares of land were gutted by the blaze, while about 300 houses and buildings were devastated.
The inferno started at about 7:17 p.m. Thursday (1017 GMT) with a spark coming down from a telephone pole on a roadside in Goseong, a northeastern border town some 160 km east of the capital Seoul, local TV footage showed.
Fanned by strong gusts of wind, the flame rapidly spread to nearby mountainous regions, encroaching on the Inje county and the cities of Sokcho, Donghae and Gangneung in Gangwon province.
As the blaze rapidly came closer to residential areas, as many as 4,000 people were ordered to evacuate overnight. The number was down later to 2,200 as about half of them came back home.
Firefighters had difficulty putting out the fire because of the strong wind and the darkness, which made it impossible for firefighting helicopters to scramble in the mountainous region.
Adding to the difficulty, Chung Eui-yong, top national security adviser for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, was stuck in the National Assembly to answer questions from opposition lawmakers during a steering committee session.
During the session, the ruling Democratic Party asked the main opposition Liberty Korea Party to let Chung, a chief of the presidential office control tower tackling national disasters, go back to the Blue House to deal with the blaze, but the opposition party rejected it. In the end, Chung left the parliament over three hours after the fire broke out.
President Moon chaired an emergency meeting of the national crisis management center overnight, instructing the relevant ministries and agencies to use all available resources to extinguish the fire and rescue people.
To tackle what the government called an "unprecedented" fire, hundreds of firetrucks gathered in the affected areas from across the country overnight, along with thousands of firefighters, soldiers and policemen.
At daybreak, more than 50 helicopters were dispatched to put out the fire. The main blazes in Goseong and Sokcho were extinguished early in the morning.
More than 70 percent of the flames in the three other areas were reportedly removed Friday afternoon. Over 17,000 personnel were sent for the firefighting and rescue operations.
President Moon visited a primary school in Goseong, where lots of locals took shelter after losing their homes with the fire, on Friday afternoon.
Moon ordered the administration to consider designating the affected areas as special disaster zones to let sufferers receive government supports rapidly and directly.
South Korea's unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said it shared information on the blaze with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) through the channel of the inter-Korean liaison office in the DPRK's border town of Kaesong that opened last September for the round-the-clock communications.