Extensive spring fires are burning in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center
Scene provided by MODIS, 05 April 2005
View of the burning Naksansa Temple and helicopter (S64E) attack in Yangyang (5 April 2005). Photo: Hankyere Newspaper
Forest fire approaching a private graveyard in Yangyang on 5 April 2005. Photo: Kim Dong Hyun, Forest Fire Division, Korea Forest Research Institute.
Forest fires continued to burn in Yangyang on 5-6 April 2005. Photo: Kim Dong Hyun, Forest Fire Division, Korea Forest Research Institute.
Fire Destroys Cultural Assets of Temple An Arbor Day forest fire destroyed invaluable treasures stored at Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Kangwon Province, including a bronze bell, which was designated as National Treasure 479 in 1968.
The fire scorched 250 hectares of forest and 240 structures in the rural area near Sokcho City along the east coast and engulfed 14 structures of the temple, many of them registered as tangible cultural properties of Kangwon Province.
Police officers work at the site of the remains of Simkumdang, one of the destroyed structures of Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Kangwon Province on Wednesday. Korea Times
The temple, which was first built by Rev. Uisangdaesa in 676 during the Silla period, had three national treasures, including the bronze bell, a seven-storied stone pagoda (Treasure 499) and the lacquered, seated Avalokitesvara bodhisattva statue (Treasure 1362).
This picture shows the bronze bell of Naksan Temple (Treasure 479) before it was destroyed by a giant forest fire on Tuesday.
Flying embers from the blaze first threatened the temple at around 6:50 a.m. Tuesday, the last time Arbor Day was celebrated as a national holiday, but it was extinguished in about an hour by monks, temple officials and firefighters prepared to protect the historic Buddhist temple.
However, at around 3 p.m., the fire re-kindled and raged again, fanned by strong winds with a velocity of over 15 meters per second. The second fire lasted a few hours and scorched two-thirds of the temple facilities and even a fire engine belonging to Sokcho.
The bell with its beautiful engravings, which was 158 centimeters tall and 98 centimeters in diameter at its mouth, was found completely burnt on Wednesday morning while the pagoda was slightly scorched by the fire.
At around 8 a.m., after putting out the first fire, temple officials moved the unique 1.2-meter-high gold-plated statue made of paper and two 3-meter-long Buddhist altar pictures to the basement of one of the few modern buildings at the temple.
“It is heartbreaking to hear the news,” Cultural Heritage Administration head Yoo Hong-joon said on his way to the site. “There will be no problem to making a replica as we took a brass-rubbing of the bell, but it won’t be the same as the original.”
The total damage is estimated at around 3 billion won ($3 million). All restoration costs will be funded by the government,” an official of the administration said.
The temple was earlier destroyed by fire during the Mongolian invasion in the 13th century.
During the Choson period (1392-1910) the temple was repeatedly reconstructed and expanded by royal order in 1467, 1469, 1631 and 1643.
The present facilities were constructed in 1953 after the buildings were again destroyed during the 1950-53 Korean War.
2,000 evacuated as forest fire continues in South Korea (AFP)
6 April 2005
YANGYANG, South Korea – A forest fire that forced more than 2,000 people from their homes and destroyed an ancient Buddhist temple appeared to be under control but could still be dangerous, officials said on Wednesday.
The fire, fanned by strong winds, destroyed more than 240 buildings, including 160 houses, in Yangyang county, 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of Seoul, the National Emergency Management Agency said in a report.
The fire engulfed Naksan-sa, a 1,300-year-old Buddhist temple in Yangyang on Tuesday, burning down most of its 20 wooden-made buildings and a 536-year-old bronze bell designated a national treasure.
The government declared a state of disaster in Yangyang and neighboring Goseong county Tuesday.
We put down the major part of the forest fire in Yangyang. It seems under control but we cannot be completely sure yet as firefighters are still working on smaller flames, Chung Sang-Hyun, an official of the agency, told AFP.
The blaze, which broke out late Monday, has forced 2,100 residents to abandon their villages for safety with 323 people homeless after their houses were burnt down in flames, the agency said.
No casualties were reported.
The agency said 10,000 firefighters and soldiers were still tackling smaller flames with the help of 38 water-carrying helicopters and 184 fire engines Wednesday.
A total of 180 hectare (445 acres) of forest had been destroyed in the flames as of early Wednesday, according to the agency. The full extent of the damage has yet to be reported.
Source: The Kaleejh Times, 6 April 2005
Fire-Ravaged Area Declared as Special Disaster Zone
7 April 2005
By Chung Ah-young, Staff Reporter
The government has designated Yangyang in Kangwon Province, severely damaged by a forest fire, as a special disaster zone.
The fire in the hardest-hit region destroyed the nation¡¯s thousand-year-old Naksansa Temple and about 250 hectares of mountainous areas since midnight on Monday.
The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has decided that although the damages are not technically eligible to be designated as a special disaster zone, the damage in the already flood-prone area is severe enough for the designation.
Under the designation, fire victims will receive special compensation and subsidies depending on the degree of damage to their property, homes and crops.
The victims will be eligible for about 5 million won for a fully destroyed house and 2.9 million won for partially damaged houses.
The farmers will be given up to 5 million won in compensation for damaged farm crops.
They will also receive various kinds of assistance such as labor support, equipment to restore electricity and water supply and medical aid, along with tax reductions and loans.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the fire engulfed 250 hectares of mountainous areas and about 246 buildings and houses on April 4-6, displacing 340 residents from 134 households.
Kosong, also hit by the fire, was not designated as a special disaster area because no damages to residents homes or property were reported.
Special disaster zones had been declared three times before in Korea for Typhoon Rusa in 2002, Typhoon Memi in 2003 and heavy snowfall in 2004.
Forest Fires Destroy 430 Hectares
y Chung Ah-young
The government is considering declaring the fire-ravaged areas as special disaster zones after an investigation team completes a damage assessment in Yangyang and Kosong in Kangwon Province on Thursday.
The forest fires, the third largest since 2000, have destroyed more than 431 hectares, an area about half the size of Yoido in Seoul, in a total of 23 mountainous areas including the two regions, according to the forest authority.
Rev. Bupjang, third from left, executive director of administration of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, prays in front of the remains of fire-ravaged Wontongbojon Hall of Naksansa Temple in Yangyang, Kangwon Province, Wednesday. Korea Times
The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs has set aside 2 billion won to help rehabilitation efforts.
If the areas are declared special disaster areas, the victims will be given up to 5 million won depending on the degree of fire damage.
Other financial and labor support also began pouring into the regions to remove waste and restore electricity and water supplies.
About 500 volunteers from the Korean National Red Cross (KNRC) and other private companies are joining the restoration efforts.
Some 150 KNRC staff in the regional branch yesterday provided necessities such as blankets, clothes and foods for the victims, equivalent to 7 million won in aid.
The Korea Forest Service said that the biggest blaze in Yangyang, engulfing the nation’s thousand-year-old Naksansa Temple, came under control around 8 a.m. yesterday, three days after it was started at about 11:53 p.m. on Monday.
During his inspection visit to the disaster region, Yoo Hong-joon, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, pledged to help restore the destroyed temple and its cultural assets as soon as possible.
The administration promised to provide 7 billion won for restoration work on the temple.
About 240 houses and buildings were destroyed by fires that raged through 250 hectares of mountainous areas, expedited by strong wind gusts of up to 17.5 meters per second.
However, firefighters, civil servants and soldiers are still checking for remaining small fires that may advance to other areas.
The fires destroyed the homes of 350 people, who are currently staying in shelters. The exact cause of the fires has not been found, the authority said.
Firefighters nearly contained the blaze on Tuesday morning, but it rapidly enveloped nearby regions, rekindled by a strong, dry wind.
Another fire, which began two kilometers west off the Demilitarized Zone near Kosong and quickly moved southward, has been contained after engulfing about 150 hectares.
Fires near Kosong that had let up after a bout of rain fell on April 2 rekindled on Monday due to strong wind gusts for over one week.
The National Emergency Management Agency has mobilized about 2,000 firefighters and police officers and 14 helicopters and five fire trucks to battle the remaining small fires in Kosong.
On Arbor Day, other wildfires were reported in 23 areas nationwide, including Taejon, Ulsan and Kwangju cities and North Kyongsang and Cholla provinces.
The nation has repeatedly witnessed forest fires in April, especially around Arbor day, which falls on April 5.
According to the forest authority, the total forest area destroyed by the fires was 521 hectares in 2000, 621 hectares in 2002 and 431 hectares in 2005.
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