Hundreds of South Koreans were forced to flee a wildfire fanned by strong winds that scorched parts of a port city in the country’s east on Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes before rains slowed them.
It took eight hours and about 3,000 firefighters to put out the fire, which broke out on a mountain in the central part of Gangneung at around 8:30 am.
About 70 homes and other structures were destroyed and more than 550 residents evacuated to facilities that included an ice skating rink and a middle school gymnasium.
There were no immediate reports of deaths. Officials said at least one resident and two firefighters suffered second-degree burns.
The Korean Forest Service said firefighters put out the fire until 4:30 p.m., with the help of rain that started in the afternoon.
Their efforts were slowed at first by strong winds that made the waterdropping planes difficult to fly, but officials were able to deploy helicopters in the afternoon.
The Korea Meteorological Administration said winds in the Gangneung area were gusting at 103 kilometers (64 miles) per hour. Strong winds also forced railway operators to cancel at least a dozen passenger trains between Gangneung and other eastern coastal cities such as Donghae and Samcheok.
The fire covered more than 379 hectares (936 acres). During the first part of their response, firefighters focused on erecting barriers to prevent the flames from spreading to more densely populated areas of Gangneung.
Images showed firefighters spraying water towards burning homes and buildings, and large orange flames showed a pine forest near a beachfront hotel and resort. The Korea Forest Service said the fire was most likely started by a tree that fell on a power line after it was severed by strong winds.
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