Firefighters work to extinguish a fire in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Image Credit: AP

SEOUL: Hundreds of South Koreans were forced to flee a wildfire fueled by strong winds that burned parts of an eastern coastal city Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes.

More than 700 firefighters and 300 vehicles were dispatched to fight the fire that started on a mountain in a central part of Gangneung, according to the Gangwon Province Governor Kim Jin-tae and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

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At least 44 homes were destroyed and more than 300 residents evacuated to facilities that included an ice-skating arena and a middle school gym. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths, according to the ministry.

It wasn’t immediate clear how long it would take firefighters to bring the flames under control as the high winds made it difficult to deploy aircraft. Kim during a televised briefing said firefighters are establishing barriers while focusing on preventing the fire from spreading to more populated areas of Gangneung.

Photos showed firefighters spraying water toward burning homes and buildings and large, orange flames engulfing a pine forest near a seaside resort hotel.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol instructed officials to deploy “all available equipment and personnel” to swiftly extinguish the wildfire and evacuate residents to prevent the loss of life.