Fire in one of Seoul’s last slums, 500 people evacuated

Fire in one of Seoul’s last slums, 500 people evacuated

A massive fire has broken out in one of the last remaining slums in the South Korean capital Seoul, forcing 500 people to flee their homes ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, authorities said.

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A video posted online shows flames ravaging Guryong village, a slum in the shadow of the spiers of the upscale Gangnam district made famous by singer Psy’s world hit “Gangnam Style.”

The fire, which started around 6:30 a.m. (3:30 p.m. GMT), is said to have burned down around 60 homes and was fully extinguished by midday, according to firefighters.

No casualties were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown, they added.

“We plan to conduct further investigations into this matter,” Choi Jae-young, an official with Seoul Fire and Disaster HQ, told AFP.

But residents said they were not surprised by the fire.

“There have been many safety issues in the community related to the fires and it seems they have never been properly addressed,” Lee Woon-chul told AFP. , 65, who has lived in the village for 30 years.

“The houses are very old and the electrical wiring is dangerous and poorly managed. Sparks in houses are common,” he added.

Since 2012, the district has been affected by at least eight fires, including the one on Friday, Seoul’s Gangnam District Office told AFP news agency.

Guryong Village emerged around 1988 when destitute residents were evicted from their homes as part of the country’s effort to develop its capital city ahead of hosting the Olympic Games.

According to official figures, there were still around 550 households last year, many of whom are said to be living with inadequate sanitary facilities.

The village is a world away from the opulent and glitzy world of Gangnam, an area known for its boutique shops and luxury apartments.

South Korea is working to tackle social inequalities and last year decided to ban the cramped basement apartments made famous by the Oscar-winning film Parasite after four people drowned in floods in their underground homes.