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National emergency declared as deadly wildfire destroys 300 structures, South Korea

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A national emergency was declared after a series of wildfires in South Korea's Gangwon Province, northeast of capital Seoul, destroyed 300 homes, warehouses and other buildings, and left at least 1 person dead since it started late April 4, 2019. The main fire has been brought under control today, but other fires are still burning.

The fire was likely started by a transformer spark near the town of Goseong around 19:17 LT and helped by strong winds rapidly spread to nearby mountains.

Gangwon Fire Headquarters fire captain, Choi Jin-ho, said nearly 2 300 people in Goseong and almost 1 250 in Sokchjo have been evacuated, adding that 2 people lost their lives – a 60-year-old man and a woman in her 70s. It was later confirmed that the woman did not fie from the fire. At least 11 people have been injured.

The fire has also spread toward Ganeuing and Donghae, causing the temporary shutdown of a highway and delays in train services.

Authorities said Friday about 2 540 ha (6 274 acres) of the forest has burned as well as 300 homes, warehouses and other structures.

Authorities mobilized 5 600 firefighters, 872 fire engines and about 20 firefighting helicopters. I addition, some 16 500 soldiers, 32 military helicopters and 26 military trucks were mobilized.

It was the biggest-ever force deployed to Gangwon-do for firefighting and rescue work.

"It is extremely rare for fire trucks to be dispatched on a nationwide scale," an official from the National Fire Agency said.

"Fortunately, the main fire has been brought under control," provincial governor Choi Moon-soon said in a radio interview with news broadcaster YTN, but added that others were still burning.

The Korea Herald said the extent of the damage and casualties is expected to grow throughout the day. 

This is one of the largest wildfires the country has ever seen. 

Featured image credit: Korea Now

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