2 dead, 11 hurt in catastrophic fire at east coast


A devastating fire has engulfed the northeastern border town of Goseong, leading to two deaths, at least 11 injuries and damage to numerous buildings and houses as of midnight Friday.

According to the Gangwon Fire Headquarters, fire broke out on a roadside in Goseong, around 210 kilometers northeast of Seoul, at around 7:17 p.m. Thursday and spread to a nearby mountain, leading to the evacuation of residents and guests of a nearby condominium. 

A mountain fire spreads to Sokcho City on the east coast on Friday. (Yonhap)

Police found a body of a man on a road who had apparently died as a result of the fire. The body of a woman in her 70s was found near a village center in Goseong as well.

The number of injuries was calculated at 11, with the figure expected to rise throughout the day. The number of residents who were evacuated hovered above 3,000, sources said.

The combined area struck by fire is estimated at 250 hectares.

The fire quickly spread throughout the region, fanned by strong winds, affecting nearby areas including Sokcho. The fire spread fast, reaching as far as 5 kilometers in an hour.

The National Fire Agency said it has ordered all headquarters of major regions, including Seoul, Gyeonggi Province and North Chungcheong Province, to send fire trucks to Goseong.

Due to the strong wind, experts said the extent of the damage and casualties is expected to grow throughout the day.

The fire agency said it issued the highest level alert — level three — as of 9:44 p.m. Thursday.

The first level indicates a fire is affecting only a limited area, while the second step is issued for a fire covering more than one city or province. The top level is issued for accidents affecting the entire nation, reflecting the seriousness of the situation.

Sources said a number of buildings and houses were damaged by the fire, with the chaotic situation making it complicated to gauge the extent of the damage and track potential casualties.

President Moon Jae-in ordered related authorities to utilize all available measures to cope with the fire.

The government kicked off the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters starting Friday to cope with the incident. The body is organized in case of serious disasters.

Gangwon Provincial Office of Education announced all schools of Sokcho will be closed on Friday.

The evacuation shelter for residents who fled from a mountain fire in Gangwon Province (Yonhap)

It remained unclear when the fire could be brought under control due to the strong winds, with darkness also making the mission difficult.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, the wind speed in Sokcho was around 20 meters per second as of late Thursday night. On Friday, the wind in the mountains of Gangwon Province may reach 30 meters per second, or 108 kilometers per hour.

With the winds anticipated to remain strong through noon Friday, experts said firefighters face a daunting task, with the region’s humidity rate also standing low at around 20 percent. (Yonhap)

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