World Heaviest rainfall in 80 years leaves at least eight...

Heaviest rainfall in 80 years leaves at least eight dead in Seoul

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Seoul was inundated with its heaviest rainfall in 80 years on Monday night, flooding parts of the city and leaving at least eight dead. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 9 (BP) — At least eight people have died and seven more are missing after the heaviest rainfall in 80 years pounded South Korea, leaving streets, subway stations, vehicles and homes flooded in and around the capital city of Seoul, officials said Tuesday.

Parts of Seoul received almost 18 inches of rain from Monday night through late Tuesday afternoon, the Korea Meteorological Administration said. In one district, 5.5 inches of rain fell in an hour on Monday, the highest rate since 1942.

Rain has continued to fall Tuesday and the KMA is forecasting up to 12 more inches of precipitation for Seoul and the surrounding areas through Thursday.

Images on social media and in local news Monday night showed major boulevards in the posh commercial district of Gangnam turned into rivers, with vehicles submerged and floating. Water cascaded down staircases and escalators of some subway stations and inundated platforms, while the city’s tranquil urban streams turned into raging rapids.

The storms and flooding left five people dead and four missing in Seoul, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety reported, while three were killed and two are missing in surrounding Gyeonggi Province. One more person was reported missing in neighboring Gangwon Province.

Among those killed in Seoul were three family members — two sisters in their 40s and a teenage daughter — who were trapped in a semi-basement apartment. The elder sister had a developmental disability, according to neighbors cited in a report by news agency Yonhap.

The below-ground homes, known as banjiha, are a common dwelling for Seoul’s urban poor and were featured in the Academy Award-winning 2019 film Parasite.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol visited the apartment on Tuesday and instructed officials to conduct a safety review of housing for the elderly and disabled, his office said.

“The more vulnerable people are, the more vulnerable they are to disasters, and only when they are safe will South Korea be safe,” he said.

Other casualties of the record rainfall included a local government worker who was electrocuted while removing a fallen tree in Seoul, while in Gyeonggi Province one person was found dead under the debris of a collapsed bus station and another was buried in a landslide.

Four people were reported missing in the wealthy Seocho district of Seoul, some in an underground mall, while two people were swept away by a flooded stream in Gyeonggi.

Several others were reported injured and 391 people were left homeless and had to take shelter in public facilities.

The downpour caused power outages and impacted roads and public transportation around the region. Eight railroad lines reported flooding and subway services were temporarily suspended in some areas.

Yoon led an emergency meeting earlier on Tuesday and called for an overhaul of measures in order to respond to extreme weather caused by climate change.

“The government must review the current disaster management system from square one, given that abnormal weather caused by climate change is becoming a part of everyday life,” he said, according to Yonhap.

The president, whose popularity has plummeted to 24% in a Gallup Korea survey released last week, faced criticism on social media for working from home rather than the national emergency headquarters during the early hours of the flood overnight on Monday.

Yoon, who was inaugurated in May, moved the presidential office from the traditional Blue House to a building near the former Yongsan Garrison and commutes from his apartment in Seocho, which was one of Seoul’s most heavily flooded areas on Monday.

Opposition lawmaker Rep. Ko Min-jung, who was the spokeswoman for former President Moon Jae-in, criticized Yoon’s absence in a Facebook post Tuesday, saying the president was “nowhere to be seen” and was stuck working over the phone “in an isolated house due to heavy rain.”

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