(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES details throughout)
MIRYANG, South Korea, May 31 (Yonhap) -- Authorities evacuated over 1,000 people from villages, hospitals and correctional facilities near a fast-spreading wildfire in the southern city of Miryang on Tuesday.
The blaze broke out at 9:25 a.m. on the hill in Miryang, around 280 km southeast of Seoul, and is continuing to spread, according to firefighting authorities.
Close to noon, the Korea Forest Service upgraded its wildfire response level to the highest level of 3, issued when a fire is estimated to scorch over 100 hectares.
As of 5 p.m., the fire burned 187 hectares of mountainous terrain in Bubuk County. Authorities said dense smoke and strong wind are making it difficult to control the fire.
A total of 44 firefighting helicopters, along with 1,600 personnel, battled the blaze.
Firefighters erected containment lanes around the blaze to keep it from spreading into nearby villages, located about 180 meters from where the fire broke out.
A total of 476 villagers near the area and 228 people from nearby elderly care hospitals have been ordered to evacuate.
Authorities also evacuated over 390 inmates from a prison in Miryang to another prison near Daegu, 302 kilometers southeast of Seoul.
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