The South Korea fire that broke out in the Uljin mountain nearly threatened a nuclear power plant and natural gas facility.
More than 6,200 people and 6,000 hectares of land (or nearly 15,000 acres) have been destroyed in South Korea after a wildfire broke out on March 4, with the fire spreading at one point close to a nearby nuclear power plant.
Thousands of firefighters and troops worked to control and put out a large-scale wildfire that sparked on a mountain in the seaside town of Uljin, located at the country’s eastern coast. The blazes spread towards the nearby city of Samcheok and beyond, prompting more than 6,200 residents to flee. The forest fire destroyed at least 159 homes and 46 other buildings, but no casualties have been reported.
Officials issued a “severe” fire hazard warning in response to the wildfire with South Korean president Moon Jae-in calling for “all-out efforts” to prevent casualties and widespread damage.
Due to strong winds, the fire was at one point approaching towards the Hanul nuclear power plant, and the country’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) production complex in the affected area, threatening to destroy the facilities and potentially sparking an even worse fire. But efforts from firefights to redirect the blazes southwards managed to prevent the worst case scenario from occurring.
As a precaution, the government also issued a natural disaster alert where the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. operates six nuclear pressurised water reactors within the area.
“It’s fortunate that there were no casualties overnight and core facilities such as Samcheok liquefied natural gas complex and Hanul nuclear power plant remain safe,“ said presidential spokesperson Park Kyung-mee.
Most forest fires in South Korea are caused by anthropogenic factors and are relatively small-scale. Officials have said they will conduct an investigation; though they say this wildfire event was likely caused by rapid strong winds and dry conditions.
A recent UN report warned that extreme wildfire events are set to rise by 50% by 2100, as a result of global warming and changes to land use patterns such as deforestation and land conversion of agricultural industries. Based on current trends, regions that were previously unaffected by wildfires including the Arctic will “very likely to experience a significant increase in burning”, contributing further to the effects of climate change.
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Featured image by: Yonhap/Picture Alliance