Rival parties urge swift response to blaze in eastern province

SEOUL, Political parties here were united Friday in calling for the government to swiftly tackle a massive fire that has engulfed five cities and counties along the northeast coast.

They also expressed a willingness for bipartisan cooperation in supporting recovery work, as the government declared a state of national disaster over the blaze in the border town of Goseong and its neighboring cities.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) asked the government to consider including expenditures on fire damage recovery in an extra budget bill that the South is expected to draw up this month.

"We requested that the government set aside spending for a job recovery in the proposed supplementary budget. We will make efforts to reflect such spending in next year's government budget for the complete recovery and forestry restoration," DP spokesman Lee Hae-sik said in a statement.

The government is set to submit an extra budget of about 9 trillion won (US$7.9 billion) to the National Assembly later this month to cope with fine dust and to boost the slowing economy and job creation.

"We will ask the government to designate the affected areas as a special disaster zone," DP chairman Lee Hae-chan said at a meeting with party members. The designation will allow the areas and their residents to receive special government support.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) also pledged parliamentary efforts to help the government tackle the disaster.

"Fire repeatedly occurs around this time every year. We will review the possibility of whether it is possible to come up with fundamental preventive measures," LKP floor leader Na Kyung-won said at a meeting with party members.

The conservative party opposes the DP's proposal to use an extra budget to fix the fire damage, raising doubts that it may have political purposes to boost the budget size.

"We are supportive of declaring the affected areas a special disaster zone, but (as for the use of the extra budget), we believe that the government could adequately cover the damage recovery with reserve funds set aside for disasters," she added.

The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party called on the government to draw up measures to stabilize the livelihoods of the displaced.

The chiefs of the DP and the two opposition parties traveled to the scene of the blaze to check the extent of the damage in an effort to determine what needs to be done to take care of people's livelihoods.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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