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Fest fire kills 4 in South Korea

FOUR people were killed and dozens injured yesterday after a fire set as part of a traditional festival in South Korea spread out of control.

The accident happened when organizers set fire to reed-like plants at the top of Hwawang mountain in southeastern South Korea as part of the full moon festival, said Park Joong-soo, an officer at Gyeongnam Provincial Police Agency.

The blaze, fanned by sudden winds, spread over firebreaks, forcing spectators to flee. Four of them, who were on top of a large rock to get a better view of the festival, fell about 10 meters to their deaths while trying to dodge the fire, Park said.

The officer said most of the 36 injured were suffering from burns.

Park said there were about 15,000 spectators at the scene. He also said the number of injured could rise.

It is a South Korean tradition to set fire to grass along rice fields on the night of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year in the belief that it helps bring good harvests and drives out evil spirits, though it is no longer widely practiced.

The county government in Changn°?yeong, about 260 kilometers southeast of Seoul, has organized the fire festival about once every two years since 1995.


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