More than 500 people have been evacuated from the Gangnam slum amid the raging fires
At least 500 people were forced to evacuate their homes in the slums of Gangnam in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Friday, authorities said, as a result of a massive fire.
A video posted online showed flames ripping through Koryeong Village, a shantytown in the shadows of the luxury high-rises in Seoul’s Gangnam district made famous by rapper Psy’s hit song “Gangnam Style.”
The fire, which started around 6:30 a.m., is believed to have burned about 60 homes, but was put out by noon, according to authorities.
They added that no injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still unknown.
“We are considering further investigation into the case,” Choi Jae-young, an official at the Seoul Fire and Disaster Headquarters, told AFP.
Residents said they were not surprised by the fire.
“There were a lot of safety concerns in the community when it came to the fire, and it didn’t seem to be properly acknowledged” by the authorities, Lee Won-chul, 65, who has lived in the village for 30 years, told AFP. .
“The houses are very old, the electrical wires are dangerous and the management is poor. Sparks spread inside the houses,” he said.
The Seoul district office of Gangnam, the local authority that oversees the district, told AFP that since 2012 the village has been hit by at least eight fires.
The settlement was formed around 1988 by squatters who had been evacuated from other areas of Seoul in the nation’s quest to develop its capital in advance of hosting the Olympic Games.
There were about 550 families left in Guryong as of last year, according to data from the state-run Seoul Housing and Communities Authority, and many are believed to be living with little or no proper sanitation.
The village is as remote as possible from the glamorous, opulent world of Gangnam – an upscale area known for its boutiques and luxury apartments.
South Korea is trying to tackle social inequality, and last year moved to ban cramped basement apartments made famous by the Oscar-winning film “Parasite” after four people drowned in their underground homes during floods.
“There have been many fires in the past, but this is the first time that houses are on fire,” Lee told AFP.
“I am not sure if those who lost their homes will be allowed to build again, as the buildings were unauthorized shacks to begin with.”