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Over 35 lives lost to severe flooding and landslides in South Korea, major SAR operation underway

south korea 00z july 15 2023 f

South Korea faced severe devastation from torrential rain starting from July 9, 2023, causing extensive flooding and landslides. The catastrophic event led to over 30 deaths nationwide, with nine others reported missing. The death toll includes at least nine people who died after a bus became trapped in a flooded underground tunnel located in Cheongju City. The number of casualties from the underpass flooding is expected to rise further as major search and rescue operations continue.

In a period starting from July 9, 2023, South Korea has grappled with intense rainfall resulting in widespread flooding and landslides. The calamity has claimed 37 lives so far, according to the country’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety. An additional nine people remain missing.

The inundation has wreaked havoc on the nation’s infrastructure and agriculture, damaging over 400 buildings and numerous roads. As a result of the continuing threats, close to 9 000 people from 14 cities and provinces have been compelled to evacuate their homes. As of July 16, 5 000 people remain displaced.

The severity of the impact varied across regions, with fatalities reported from Sejong (1), North Chungcheong (13), South Chungcheong (4), and North Gyeongsang (19) Provinces. Eight people are still unaccounted for in North Gyeongsang Province, while one person remains missing in Busan.

One of the most heartrending episodes of this disaster unfolded in the city of Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province. Here, a 430 m (1 410 feet) long underground tunnel in Osong was inundated on the morning of July 16, trapping a bus carrying several passengers. To date, this incident has resulted in nine confirmed deaths, with divers working relentlessly to retrieve the victims’ bodies. The death toll in this underpass is expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue.

The Prime Minister of South Korea, Han Duck-soo, declared on July 16, that all available resources from the military, police, fire department, and local governments have been mobilized for rescue operations, particularly in Cheongju City.

Further fatalities have been reported from other parts of the country. North Gyeongsang province reported as many as 19 deaths, primarily caused by landslides and housing collapses in Yecheon County. An extensive search and rescue operation, involving 2 400 rescue personnel from fire departments, police, and military, is currently underway in the area.

Deaths have also been reported in South Chungcheong Province (4) and Sejong City (1). Nationwide, around 35 people have sustained injuries due to the torrential rains, and a person remains missing in Busan.

The Korea Meteorological Administration has warned that the severe weather is predicted to continue until the middle of the following week, raising grave concerns. Despite South Korea’s preparedness for flooding during the annual summer monsoon season, the current disaster’s toll on human life is considerably high.

References:

1 South Korea – Over 30 Dead, Many Missing After Floods and Landslides in 4 Provinces – FloodList – July 16, 2023

2 Rescuers retrieve eight bodies from flooded South Korea underpass – Reuters – July 16, 2023

Featured image credit: JMA/Himawari-9, Zoom Earth, The Watchers

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