President Moon Jae-in instructed his government Friday to pay special attention to the people affected by a massive fire along the country's east coast while also calling for all-out efforts to completely put out the blaze.
"I ask you to do your utmost until the very last moment when all embers are completely put out," the president said in a crisis management meeting held at the national crisis management center at his office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.
"I also ask you to be thorough in searching for possible victims in remote areas," the president added, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
Moon's visit to the emergency control center was his second since the massive blaze broke out late Thursday in the mountainous city of Goseong, 160 kilometers east of Seoul.
Nearly 900 fire engines and 13,000 firefighters from all parts of the country were mobilized after the president earlier ordered the government to put in every available resource to contain the fire.
However, strong winds have prevented containment, spreading the fire to at least four other cities and counties in the eastern province of Gangwon so far.
More than 380 hectares of land -- equivalent to an area slightly larger than Central Park in New York -- are estimated to have been devastated, with at least 300 houses and buildings destroyed in what local authorities have called an "unprecedented disaster."
At least one person is believed to have been killed and 11 others injured. More than 4,200 people have been evacuated from Goseong and other affected areas, including Sokcho and Gangneung, both very popular tourist destinations.
"I ask you to specially look after the victims, who must be filled with a deep sense of sorrow after losing their homes," Moon was quoted as telling the emergency meeting.
Earlier in the day, the government declared a state of national disaster, a move aimed at enabling faster mobilization of necessary resources to contain the fire.
The president told the government to consider designating the affected areas as natural disaster zones, which would entitle those locations and their residents to special government support.
Also Friday, Hong Nam-ki, the minister of economy and finance, said the government has earmarked 4.25 billion won (US$3.7 million) for emergency recovery efforts. The policymaker said the government will make the most of reserve funds worth 1.8 trillion won, if needed, to deal with the fallout of the devastating fire.(Yonhap)