Torrential downpours in South Korea have resulted in the tragic deaths of at least 35 people, as flash floods and landslides have devastated the country. The heavy rainfall, which began on July 9, has intensified over the past three days and is expected to continue in some regions until Sunday.
Rescue workers have recovered seven bodies from a flooded tunnel where approximately 15 vehicles, including a bus, were trapped in muddy water. Around 400 rescue workers, including divers, are currently conducting search and rescue operations in the tunnel located in the city of Cheongju. Photos and videos from the scene depict rescue workers establishing a perimeter and pumping out brown water, while divers utilise rubber boats to navigate the area.
The tunnel remains filled with 4 to 5 meters (13 to 16.4 feet) of water, dense with mud and debris. The slow pumping process aims to prevent any victims or survivors from being swept away.
Nine individuals have been rescued from the tunnel, while 11 others are reported missing according to families and witnesses. The exact number of trapped passengers in the vehicles is not yet clear.
In North Chungcheong province, thousands of people are being evacuated due to the risk of a dam overflowing. By 9 am local time, the Goesan Dam was receiving more than its maximum discharge capacity of over 2,700 tonnes of water.
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety reported a total of 22 fatalities on Friday and Saturday, primarily in the central and southeastern regions. Landslides claimed the lives of five people, burying houses in two central towns, while two individuals died in a building collapse caused by landslides in Nonsan.
Torrential rains since Tuesday have also left 14 people missing and caused injuries to 13 others since Thursday. However, the cause of death for the additional fatalities was not specified in the ministry’s latest report.
Over 1,500 people have been displaced from their homes, and power outages have affected thousands more. A train derailment occurred in the North Chungcheong province due to a landslide, resulting in an injured train engineer.
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo has called for military assistance in the rescue operation, mobilising equipment and manpower alongside government officials.
These incidents follow the devastating consequences of record rainfall in South Korea last August, which resulted in at least eight deaths and numerous injuries. Heavy flooding forced the evacuation of over 100 homes, turning the streets of Seoul’s Gangnam district into rivers. The capital experienced the highest hourly downpour since 1942, with over 5.5 inches of rain falling per hour (14 cm per hour) at one point.