The South Korean Government has declared parts of the east coast of the country as disaster area after a week of devastating forest fires. Thousands of villagers were forced to flee their homes. Two people were killed and 15 injured in the blazes. Thousands of firefighters and reserve military forces have been battling the fires in rugged mountain terrain near Samchok, about 225 km (140 miles) east of Seoul. In the beginning heavy fog had hindered air attack by helicopters to extinguish the fires. Despite the fog problems fires were finally extinguished on Saturday. Helicopters dumped water and firefighters tried to contain the blazes for the past week on hills in nearby Samchok. The fires destroyed more than 600 buildings and left more than 840 people homeless. A nuclear power plant at Uljin was forced to stop operating for 18 hours last Friday and Saturday. Over 10,000 hectares of forest have been destroyed and 1,360 heads of cattle killed. The fires started Friday (7 April 2000) and swept wooded areas along the east coast. The cause of the fires is under investigation and local media reports said the possibility of arson had not been ruled out.
Information source: BBC News Asia-Pacific; Saturday, 15 April 2000
Korean Nuclear Peril Thousands of people on the east coast of South Korea were evacuated as the worst brush fires since the Korean War approached three nuclear power plants. The blazes stretched from the northeastern tip of the demilitarized zone to the city of Uljin, 130 miles southeast of Seoul, where the reactors are located. Military troops and police established emergency cordons around the three nuclear facilities as firefighters felled trees in a six-mile radius around the plants. Helicopters also dumped tons of water on the surrounding forests. More than 35,000 residents of the coastal city of Tonghae fled their homes as the wildfires also engulfed the citys perimeter.
by Steve Newman; Friday, 14 April 2000
The NOAA-15 POES AVHRR LAC satellite image of 11 April 2000 shows heat signatures (red) from fires burning in South Korea.
Fig.1. NOAA-15 POES AVHRR LAC satellite image of Korea, 11 April 2000.