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‘Sea of fire’: National disaster declared as thousands flee South Korean wildfires (VIDEOS)

‘Sea of fire’: National disaster declared as thousands flee South Korean wildfires (VIDEOS)
Thousands of firefighters and military personnel in South Korea are engaged in a major operation to contain wildfires which have so far killed at least one person, injured 11 and forced the evacuation of over 4,000 residents.

The blaze, one of the county’s largest-ever wildfires, broke out in Gangwon Province near Sokcho and Gangneung in the mountainous north-eastern region, close to the North Korean border. It has already been declared a national disaster.

“It is extremely rare for fire trucks to be dispatched on a nationwide scale,” an official from South Korea’s fire agency said as cited by the Korea Herald.

It is believed to have been started by a malfunctioning electrical transformer which sparked and ignited the fire. It was subsequently fanned by strong winds.

Apocalyptic imagery has been shared widely on social media since the fire began.

The wildfires are already estimated to have burned more than 525 hectares (1,297 acres) of land and up to 200 buildings had already been consumed by the flames by early Friday.  

The fire in Sokcho has been contained while roughly half of the Gangneung blaze has been brought under control by some 872 fire trucks and 3,251 firefighters.

An additional 16,500 soldiers, 32 military helicopters and 26 military fire trucks were also deployed. Four billion won ($3.52 million) will be issued to help fund the cleanup and containment operations, along with an additional 250 million won in disaster relief funds for evacuees.

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