President Moon Jae-in on Friday made a surprise visit to the eastern city of Goseong, where more than10,000 firefighters and military personnel have gathered to put out a massive fire that started the day before.
The president first visited the site command center in Goseong, 160 kilometers east of Seoul, where he urged continued efforts to completely put out the fire that is believed to have destroyed more than 300 buildings so far.
"We may have failed to prevent the fire from spreading in the early stage because of strong winds, but I still believe we were able to stop the fire from spreading further because of the joint efforts of our firefighters, military and police officers and also civilians," the president said after being briefed on current conditions, according to pool reports.
|President Moon Jae-in (right) holds hands of a victim of a wilde fire in Goseong on Friday. (Yonhap)|
Later, the president visited a makeshift shelter set up at a school to offer his personal condolences to those evacuated and dislocated.
"The most important thing is not to get hurt. The life is what is most important," Moon said while meeting with a group of residents who evacuated their homes in Goseong.
Moon's trip to the site of the fire came hours after he ordered the government to consider designating Goseong and other affected places as special disaster zones, which would entitle the areas and their residents to special government support.
The government earlier declared a national state of emergency, a move aimed at ensuring faster mobilization of government resources necessary to fight what local authorities have called an "unprecedented disaster."
So far, some 4,800 people are said to have evacuated Goseong and four other cities and counties.
More than 800 fire engines and 13,000 firefighters and rescue workers, including ones from the military, have been mobilized from around the entire nation.
Still, one person has been confirmed killed and 11 others injured after initial efforts to contain the fire were frustrated by strong gusts of wind spreading it to other areas in the heavily forested region in Gangwon Province.
The fire that began in Goseong has since spread to four other nearby cities and counties, including two famous resort cities of Sokcho and Gangneung, according to earlier reports.
More than 380 hectares of land are estimated to have been devastated and 300 houses and buildings destroyed by the fire that broke out shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday. (Yonhap)