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Four killed in SKorea festival stampede: police

At least four people were killed and 30 injured Monday when a fire triggered a mountaintop stampede during a traditional festival in southeastern South Korea, police said.

world Updated: Feb 09, 2009 19:47 IST

At least four people were killed and 30 injured Monday when a fire triggered a mountaintop stampede during a traditional festival in southeastern South Korea, police said.

Two people are missing after the blaze near the town of Changnyeong which broke out during an event to celebrate the first full moon of the Lunar New Year.

A fire lit by the municipal government on Mount Hwawang ("Big Fire Mountain") as part of the festival spread out of control because of a crosswind and sparked the stampede, Yonhap news agency said.

It said three women and one man were killed when the flames forced some members of the 15,000-strong crowd over a cliff. "Many mountain climbers who were observing the event are believed to have fallen off a cliff on the mountain after the blaze caused them to run and scatter," the agency quoted a police officer as saying.

The event, held every three years by the town, has its roots in an old folk tale about the force of fire bringing good crops and happiness.

An eyewitness surnamed Lee described pandemonium as onlookers tried to avoid the fire, which covered the mountaintop with red flames and black smoke.