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Forest Fires Damage Villages, Kill Livestock

April 25, 1996

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Forest fires raced through South Korea’s rugged northeast mountains today, destroying dozens of homes and thousands of acres of woodland.

Hundreds of villagers were evacuated as the fires scorched 7,400 acres of forest in Kosung County, 80 miles northeast of Seoul, the national news agency Yonhap reported.

The fires began three days ago. Fanned by strong winds, they threatened the nearby Sulak Mountains National Park, one of the nation’s most densely wooded regions.

South Korean soldiers at a target range were believed to have started the fires accidentally.

About 80 houses have been destroyed and more than 300 head of livestock were reported to have been killed by the fires. TV footage showed blackened bodies of cattle and the smoking debris of farmers’ homes.

Hundreds of firefighters and villagers, aided by a dozen helicopters, were working to put out the fires, but were hampered by the winds and dry brush on the forest floor.

At least three other smaller fires were reported elsewhere today as officials issued a nationwide warning against forest fires.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military said it is investigating an unconnected brush fire that killed seven South Koreans on Tuesday. Families of the victims say the fire on a hill used by the U.S. military as a training area was also caused by a stray spark from soldiers at target practice.

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