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(3rd LD) About 500 people evacuated after fire rages through shanty village in Seoul

13:36 January 20, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS photo)
By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- About 500 people were evacuated from homes Friday morning as a fire raged through the last remaining shanty village in Seoul and destroyed at least 60 homes, fire authorities said.

The blaze broke out at 6:27 a.m. in the fourth district of the Guryong village, located in Seoul's posh area of Gangnam Ward, and was fully extinguished around 11:46 a.m., they said.

There was no immediate report of deaths or injuries, Shin Yong-ho, a fire official of Gangnam Fire Station, told reporters, adding the fire engulfed around 2,700 square meters of the fire-prone town.

Firefighters examine gutted makeshift buildings in Guryong Village, the last remaining slum in Seoul, in the capital's Gangnam Ward on Jan. 20, 2023. (Yonhap)

More than 900 firefighters, police officers and government officials were dispatched to fight the blaze and handle evacuations.

Currently, there are around 666 households in the village, and most of the buildings are improvised structures with vinyl plywood panels.

President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is on a visit to Switzerland to attend the Davos forum, called for maximum efforts in the mobilization of all available firefighters and equipment to ensure there are no casualties, according to Yoon's spokesperson Kim Eun-hye.

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min also ordered officials to prevent any secondary damage and protect residents living nearby, the ministry said.

Firefighters battle a fire in the fourth district of Guryong Village, the last remaining slum in Seoul, in the capital's Gangnam Ward on Jan. 20, 2023. (Yonhap)

The shanty village is located on the fringes of Gangnam Ward, which has the country's most expensive real estate. It was formed in the 1980s when poor residents of the region were forced to move out of their homes as the city carried out development projects.

Makeshift houses illegally built at the foot of Mount Guryong are prone to electric malfunctions and fire, as they are built with flammable materials.

Since 2009, the village has suffered at least 16 fires, resulting in the death of one resident in November 2014.

Despite the Seoul city government's plan to designate the village as an urban development zone back in 2011, the proposal has faltered due to disagreements between local governing bodies and residents, and negotiations over land compensation.

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Smoke billows from the fourth district of Guryong Village, the last remaining slum in Seoul, in the capital's Gangnam Ward on Jan. 20, 2023. (Yonhap)

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