A blaze destroyed at least 60 homes in one of Seoul’s last remaining shantytowns on Friday, forcing the evacuation of about 500 people just before Lunar New Year, South Korea’s biggest holiday.
The fire broke out at 6:27 a.m. in Guryong Village, located near one of Seoul’s most affluent suburbs, Gangnam district. No deaths or injuries were reported, Shin Yong-ho, administrative director at the Gangnam Fire Station, told the media.
A total of 170 firefighters, 300 regional government officials and 260 police officers were dispatched to the site, Shin said. The main fire was extinguished after emergency services deployed 53 fire trucks and 10 helicopters, he said. People who had lost their homes would be accommodated temporarily in nearby hotels, according to the official.
President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is visiting Davos, Switzerland, to attend the annual World Economic Forum, ordered the government to ensure resources are available to prevent casualties and more damage.
Guryong Village, whose makeshift homes are vulnerable to fires, has been struck by at least 16 blazes since 2009.
In 2014, one resident was killed in a fire, according to Yonhap News. Last March, 11 houses were burned down and part of the nearby forest was destroyed by a blaze that spread to a mountain in the area.
Some houses in Guryong Village are covered with wads of cotton and the interiors contain flammable materials such as vinyl, styrofoam, gas bottles and coal. The homes are also attached to each other, increasing risks of fires quickly spreading.
There are about 666 households in the village, Yonhap reported. The area was created in the 1980s, when residents were forced to move out of their homes as the city carried out development projects, according to the media.