Hundreds fled after a fire spread through a Seoul neighborhood

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SEOUL, South Korea – A fire spread through a neighborhood of densely packed, mobile homes in the South Korean capital Friday morning, destroying at least 60 and forcing about 500 residents to flee.

Officials said firefighters were bringing the blaze under control in the city of Guryong in Seoul and there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

Shin Yong-ho, an official at Seoul’s Gangnam district fire department, said rescuers were continuing to search areas affected by the fire, but it was believed that all occupants have been safely evacuated.

More than 800 firefighters, police officers and public workers were sent to fight the blaze and handle evacuations after the fire broke out around 6:30 a.m.

Pictures from the scene showed firefighters battling the blaze under thick white smoke covering the city as helicopters sprayed water from above.

Shin said the fire was believed to have started at one of the town’s homes made of plastic sheets and plywood. He said that the cause of the fire was being investigated.

Kim Ah-reum, an official at the Gangnam district office, said about 500 residents have evacuated to nearby facilities including a school gymnasium. Officials planned to move the residents to hotels later.

The news of the fire scared South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who while visiting Switzerland for the Davos meetings asked officials to put all resources into action to prevent damage and reduce casualties, said his spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye.

The country is still reeling from its worst disaster in nearly a decade, after nearly 160 people died in a crowded Seoul nightlife district in October. Experts blame the deadly crush on poor planning by police and administrative officials, who failed to use basic crowd control measures despite expecting large gatherings of Halloween revelers.

The town of Guryong, which is near some of Seoul’s most expensive buildings, has been frequently damaged by fire over the years, a vulnerability that has been linked to its packed homes that have been destroyed. be built with combustible materials.

The town was established in the 1980s as a settlement for people who were evicted from their original neighborhoods under large housing evictions and the city’s redevelopment projects. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes in slums and low-income settlements during those years, a process that the country’s military leaders at the time saw as vital in beautifying the city for foreign visitors ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

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