Firefighters battling wildfire in eastern coastal county of Uljin

ULJIN, South Korea-- A wildfire broke out in the eastern coastal county of Uljin on Friday, prompting authorities to issue a natural disaster alert while trying to make sure the blaze does not pose a threat to a nuclear power plant in the area, officials said.

The blaze started on a road near a mountain in the North Gyeongsang Province county, about 330 kilometers southeast of Seoul, at 11:17 a.m. and has been spreading towards the peak of the mountain, according to the Korea Forest Service (KFS).

Around 3,900 residents in nine villages nearby the area were evacuated, but no casualties were reported.

The KFS and the National Fire Agency (NFA) issued an emergency alert and mobilized 28 fire fighting helicopters, 105 firetrucks and more than 400 firefighters to put out the blaze.

But firefighters were having difficulties containing the fire due to strong wind with a speed of over 25 meters per second and dry weather, officials said.

NFA chief Lee Heung-kyo ordered the regional fire authority of North Gyeongsang Province to make all-out efforts to prevent the fire from further spreading to the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant in Uljin, where six pressurized water reactors are located.

The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., the plant's operator, said it lowered the generation capacity of five reactors in operation by 50 percent to prepare for a possible glitch in the grid from the fire, though no damage has been reported.

Early voting for next week's presidential election was suspended at one of the polling stations in Uljin due to a power outage caused by the fire.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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