Fire burns makeshift homes in shadow of Seoul’s skyscrapers


A fire destroyed about 60 temporary homes in a populated neighborhood surrounded. By some of the wealthiest streets in South Korea’s ultramodern capital on Friday.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze in Seoul’s Guryeong Village in about five hours. And no injuries or deaths were reported.

Shin Yong-ho, an official with the fire department in Seoul’s Gangnam district. Said rescuers had searched areas affected.

More than 800 firefighters, police officers and public workers battled the blaze. And managed evacuations after the fire broke out around 6:30 a.m. local time.

Photos showed firefighters battling the blaze under thick white smoke. As helicopters sprayed water from above. Later orange-suited rescuers searched through. The charred landscape with gray tendrils of smoke still rising. The skyscrapers of the capital glitter in the distance.

“How could this happen on the Lunar New Year holiday?” Kim Sung-Han, a 66-year-old village resident, told The Associated Press. Referring to one of the country’s biggest holidays. That begins this weekend and runs through Tuesday.

“I had to run out of the house in this outfit,” says Kim, unable to find anything else. “I couldn’t go to work … when it’s so hard to survive.”

Lee Un-cheol, a community leader in the village, said residents were able to alert others to the fire. And firefighters were going door-to-door looking for people and helping them evacuate.

“This is where many accidents occur due to electrical short circuits,” Lee told YTN news channel. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

About 500 residents were evacuated to nearby facilities, including a school gym. Said Kim Ah-ryum, an official at the Gangnam district office.  Some of the 60 houses that burned were empty.

News of the fire has worried South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol. Who during a visit to Switzerland for the Davos meeting ordered officials to mobilize. All available resources to cut damage and casualties, said his spokesman Kim Eun-hye.

South Korea is still dealing with its worst disaster in a decade. After a stampede in a Seoul nightlife district in October killed 160 people. Experts blamed the fatal crush on poor planning by police and administrative officials. Who failed to take basic crowd control measures despite. Expecting huge gatherings of Halloween revelers.

Guryeong Village, an illegal enclave located near some of Seoul’s most expensive real estate. And characterized by towering high-rise apartments and luxury shopping districts. Has long been a symbol of South Korea’s stark income inequality.

The hillside village has suffered frequent fires over the years. A vulnerability associated with packed houses made of combustible materials. A fire destroyed eleven homes in March and flooding forced the evacuation of about 100 people last August.

As a settlement for people evicted from their original neighborhood. Under the city’s massive house clearing and redevelopment project.

Hundreds of thousands of people were evicted from their homes in slums.

And low-income settlements during those years. A process that the country’s then-military leaders deemed important in beautifying. The city for foreign visitors ahead of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

Seoul’s city government first announced plans to redevelop the area in 2011. But efforts have been stalled by disagreements between city officials. And residents over land compensation and other issues. __

AP video journalists Yong Ho Kim and Yong Joon Chang contributed to the report.

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