SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Thousands of South Koreans fled their homes Friday as a large wildfire ripped through an eastern coastal area and temporarily threatened a nuclear power station before being driven away by winds.
As of Friday evening, around 1,000 firefighters were battling the blaze amid strong winds and focusing their efforts on preventing it from reaching a liquified natural gas facility near the city of Samcheok.
The fire began Friday morning on a mountain in the nearby county of Uljin and destroyed at least 22 homes and nine other structures, according to officials at the National Fire Agency and the Korea Forest Service.
Nearly 4,000 people fled their houses as the fire spread, but all but 161 had returned as of Friday evening, said Lee Jae-hoon, a National Fire Agency official.
The fire reached the perimeter of a seaside nuclear power plant, forcing the operator to reduce operations to 50%. Hundreds of firefighters were deployed to the plant and kept the blaze under control before winds drove it northward toward Samcheok, said Kang Dae-hoon, another agency official.