A park along the flooded Geum River following heavy rains in Sejong, South Korea, July 15, 2023. LEE EUN-PA / AP
At least twenty-two people died and fourteen are missing on Saturday, July 15, following torrential rains that hit several regions of South Korea, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate due to the alert at the overflow of a dam.
In three days, heavy rains submerged many regions in the middle of the monsoon. The 22 people killed and 14 missing were mostly swallowed up in landslides or fell into a flooded reservoir, according to the Interior Ministry.
The majority of the victims – including sixteen dead and nine people missing – were in North Gyeongsang province, where massive landslides in mountainous areas buried inhabited houses. Several of the missing people were swept away in the overflows of a river in this region, according to the ministry.
Earlier in the day, the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoting local official relief reported, for its part, 24 dead. In the most affected areas, “houses were completely swept away”said a rescue worker in Yonhap.
Houses are flooded after heavy rains in Cheongju, South Korea, July 15, 2023. CHEON KYUNG-HWAN / AP
Stopping regular trains
More than 6,400 residents of central Goesan County were ordered to evacuate early on Saturday as the Goesan Dam began to overflow from torrential rains and overwhelm nearby low-lying villages , according to the Ministry of the Interior.
Rescuers were working hard to reach 19 cars trapped in an underground tunnel in Cheongju, central North Chungcheong Province, where a person’s body was found, Yonyap said.
Floods hit the area with such rapidity that the population could not evacuate in time. Water levels remain high and it is still impossible to know precisely how many people have been trapped in their vehicles, according to Yonhap.
The number of casualties is expected to rise further as authorities are still taking stock of the damage across the country, according to the news agency.
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The heavy rains have caused all regular trains to stop nationwide, with high-speed KTX trains remaining operational with possible schedule adjustments, according to the national railway company.
Roads have been closed as well as traffic lanes in national parks due to rain and flooding.
South Korea’s weather forecasting administration has issued warning notices as more rain is expected until Wednesday. The weather conditions still pose a « grave » dangerous, she said.
South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo appealed to the South Korean Ministry of Defense to help with relief.
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