Yangyang – 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, 200km 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 neighbouring Goseong county on Tuesday.
YTN cable news quoted Cho Yon-Hwan, chief of the forestry service, as declaring the brush fire in Yangyang had been completely extinguished.
“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, said.
The blaze, which broke out late on 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 on Wednesday.
A total of 250 hectares of forest had been destroyed in the flames as of noon on Wednesday, according to the agency. The full extent of the damage has yet to be reported.
It said a separate forest fire, which had been burning on-and-off inside the inter-Korean border, was under control Wednesday after moving miles into South Korea’s town of Goseong, where troops had extinguished smaller flames.