Guryeong Village, South Korea: 500 people evacuated after massive fire breaks out in one of Seoul’s last terrorist attacks
About 500 people were evacuated from their homes on Friday after a fire in Guryeong village, one of the last slums in the South Korean capital, Seoul, firefighters said.
The fire broke out in the village’s fourth district at around 6:28 a.m., Shin Young-ho of the Gangnam Fire Station said in a televised briefing. He said first responders arrived five minutes later.
It was extinguished around 11:50 a.m. local time, and an area of 2,700 square meters was damaged.
There are no reports of casualties or injuries yet.
About 60 homes are believed to have burned, Sheen said, adding that most of the structures were made of vinyl plywood panels.
Videos on social media showed what appeared to be a row of houses engulfed in flames and billowing thick black smoke billowing from a large plume of smoke as sirens blared nearby.
More than 800 response personnel were mobilized, including firefighters, police and civil servants, and 10 helicopters were dispatched to help with the response, Shin said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, who is in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum, was notified of the fire and ordered authorities to mobilize “all available personnel and equipment,” the president’s office said.
Yun also asked local governments to evacuate residents and ensure the safety of rescue workers, his office said.
Authorities have long warned that Guryeong residents are at particular disaster risk, with the Gangnam government declaring on its website in 2019 that the slum is “vulnerable to fires.”
It was also hit hard by floods last August after record rainfall killing at least 13 people In Seoul – including some residents trapped in the ‘banjiha’ basement houses depicted in the movie ‘Parasite’.
The Guryeong slum has long been seen as a symbol of the gap between rich and poor in South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy. It’s part of the wealthy, glitzy Gangnam district, made famous by Psy’s 2012 song “Gangnam Style” and sometimes referred to as Seoul’s Beverly Hills.
Gangnam’s high-rises are less than a kilometer from Guryeong’s shacks, where many residents live in cramped houses made of materials such as wood and corrugated iron.
Although plans to redevelop the area have been in the works for at least a decade, many proposals have failed due to disagreements between local governments and negotiations over land compensation.
These efforts are ongoing, and as of 2019, 406 households, more than a third of the slum population, have been relocated. Gangnam Government website. More than 1,000 residents are still living there, Gangnam officials confirmed Friday.
The district shared plans for the redevelopment last May local official said that the land will be turned into an “ecologically clean luxury residential complex.”
The Seoul government said in a press release last November that authorities are working to help move about 1,500 households living in shanty towns in three major areas, including Guryeong, into public housing.
He added that the city eventually aims to “remove abnormal residences such as penthouses and vinyl houses.”
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