South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pointed fingers at authorities’ negligence in adhering to disaster response protocols as the death toll surged to 40 amidst relentless torrential rain over the past few days. The downpours have wreaked havoc on central and southern regions, reaching their peak during the ongoing rainy season that commenced in late June. The nation’s interior ministry has also reported nine individuals missing and 34 injured across the country due to the severe weather.
South Korea Rainfall Death Toll Rise to 40
In a tragic incident that raised concerns over flood management in South Korea, a dozen people were found dead in a submerged underpass in Cheongju, located 110km (68 miles) south of Seoul. The calamity occurred after a flash flood engulfed 16 vehicles, including a bus, when a river levee collapsed on Saturday.
The catastrophe has amplified questions regarding the government’s preparedness and response measures to mitigate flood damages. Several drivers who regularly used the affected road held the government accountable for its failure to prohibit access to the underpass, despite widespread forecasts of floods.
Returning from an overseas trip, President Yoon hastily convened a disaster response meeting on Monday, acknowledging that inadequate management of vulnerable areas exacerbated the situation. He stressed the importance of implementing access controls in hazardous regions and promoting preemptive evacuations to ensure public safety.
Seo Jeong-il, the fire chief in west Cheongju, informed in a briefing on Monday that search operations were ongoing, but no additional victims were discovered in the remaining vehicles inside the submerged tunnel.
In recent years, the country has witnessed a rising number of casualties during the rainy seasons due to intensified weather patterns. In response, the government had pledged to take measures to better cope with climate change-induced disasters after the heaviest rainfall in 115 years ravaged Seoul the previous year. The floods had caused at least 14 deaths, inundating subways, roads, and homes, even in the posh Gangnam district.
President Yoon visited some of the hardest-hit areas in a helicopter, urging utmost efforts to rescue any survivors and guaranteeing support for those affected. He also declared the designation of flood-hit regions as special disaster zones, promising to restore everything to alleviate the citizens’ distress.
Meanwhile, the situation across the border in North Korea remains uncertain. Recent reports from state media indicated heavy rainfall and measures to safeguard crops in the nation, which has been grappling with severe food shortages.
In light of the situation, South Korea’s Unification Ministry disclosed that it had requested Pyongyang to notify Seoul of any intentions to release water from its Hwanggang Dam. Back in 2009, a similar release caused flooding downstream, resulting in the deaths of six South Koreans.
As South Korea grapples with the aftermath of devastating rainfall, questions and concerns over disaster management measures and climate change mitigation loom large. The nation faces the arduous task of rebuilding and implementing measures to safeguard against future calamities while extending support to those affected by this tragic natural disaster.