South Korea: Torrential rain, flooding in Seoul kills 13

More than 5,300 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, according to official sources



Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

By Agencies

Published: Tue 9 Aug 2022, 8:56 AM

Last updated: Fri 12 Aug 2022, 1:02 PM

Subway stations and major roads were submerged in the South Korean capital Seoul, after record-breaking rains caused severe flooding, with at least thirteen people dead, nine injured, and eight missing, officials said on Thursday.

Authorities warned of more rain to come, even as emergency workers tried to clear the hulks of flooded cars, which AFP reporters saw strewn across major intersections throughout the city.

Dramatic images shared on social media on Tuesday showed people wading through waist-deep water, metro stations overflowing, and cars half-submerged in Seoul's posh Gangnam district, which was particularly hard-hit.

The downpour that began on Monday is the heaviest rainfall in South Korea in 80 years, according to Seoul's Yonhap News Agency.

More than 5,300 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, according to official sources.

Local reports said three people living in a banjiha-- cramped basement flats of the kind made famous in Bong Joon-ho's Oscar-winning film 'Parasite'-- including a teenager, died as their apartment was inundated with water.

Gangnam, a wealthy district in southern Seoul, featured in Psy's 2012 K-pop hit 'Gangnam Style'-- received 326.5mm of rainfall on Monday, data from the Korea Meteorological Administration showed.

Yonhap said that the downpours were the heaviest recorded since 1942.

President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered government officials to evacuate residents from high-risk areas, and encouraged businesses to allow employees flexible commuting hours on Tuesday morning.

"Record-breaking torrential downpours in the central region since yesterday have caused a lot of damage, including unfortunate casualties," Yoon said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, adding that the government would provide "prompt recovery and damage support".

Neighbourhoods close to the presidential residence in southern Seoul were affected, as images of the flooding posted on social media showed.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) warned South Koreans to "be careful of the heavy rain, gusts, as well as thunder and lightning in the central region" for the next few days.

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The KMA also said that up to 300 more millimetres of rain was forecast for the central region, including Seoul, till Thursday.

Power outages were reported across the capital earlier this week, while some operations of the Seoul metro and railway services were temporarily disrupted by the heavy rain.

The Seoul express bus terminal in Gangnam was also submerged. Flood water leaked into a cafe and library at the COEX Convention and Exhibition Center in the same area.

An image of a man in a suit sitting on the hood of a submerged vehicle in Gangnam district went viral, as did a video showing electrical street lights shorting out, apparently due to flooding.

Lim Na-kyung, a 31-year-old office worker, recounted her fears of Monday evening, saying the situation reminded her of a scene from the 1997 film 'Titanic'.

"I had to keep going higher and higher because the building was submerging at a fast pace ... I couldn't believe that I was trapped in building with 40 other people in the middle of Gangnam district," said the mother of two, who eventually had to spend the night at a Pilates centre on the fourth floor.

At least eight people died in Seoul, three others in the neighbouring Gyeonggi Province, and two others in the Gangwon Province by Thursday, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters said. Four died after being drowned in flooded buildings, one was believed to have been electrocuted, another person was found under the wreckage of a bus stop, and the other two died in a landslide.

Data showed at least 765 facilities were damaged, while about 52 highways and roads have been blocked. There were about 391 victims across the greater Seoul area, most of whom had to stay at local schools and gyms, while another 399 temporarily evacuated to community centres and schools, according to the data.

Hiking trails at many of the country's national parks were closed, and passenger ferry routes, including those from the Incheon port, were suspended.

The Headquarters raised the crisis alert to the highest and requested organisations adjust their working hours.

While South Korea often experiences heavy rains in summer, "such sharp increase in precipitation and frequent torrential rains cannot be explained without the big trend of climate change," a KMA official, who spoke in condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

"This phenomenon is seen occurring more often due to climate change that has resulted in a prolonged summer," the official concluded.

At an official meeting on relief efforts, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck Soo said the government had already completed the bulk of emergency repair work.


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