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S Korea hit by record heavy rains, four dead and one missing

SEOUL (ANN/THE KOREA HERALD) – Record-breaking rains hit South Korea’s southern regions from Tuesday evening through Wednesday morning, causing at least four deaths and leaving one person missing. 

The Korea Meteorological Administration reported it as the most intense downpour in 200 years.

Heavy rains began pounding North Jeolla Province early Wednesday, with Gunsan experiencing 131.7 millimetres of rainfall within one hour by 2.24am. This marked the heaviest hourly downpour ever recorded nationwide, accounting for over 10 per cent of the city’s annual average rainfall of 1,246 mm. 

It was the highest level since weather record-keeping began in 1907, an event occurring “once every 200 years”.

Eocheong-do in Gunsan saw 146 mm of rain within an hour from 11.51pm on Tuesday. The last time such an intense downpour occurred in this area was on July 31, 1998. 

Other affected areas included Iksan in North Jeolla Province with 125.5 mm, and Seocheon and Buyeo in South Chungcheong Province with 111.5 mm and 106.0 mm, respectively.

The torrential rains caused severe damage and flooding. 

In Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province, a man died after being trapped in a flooded elevator around 3.00am At 3.57am, a house collapsed in a landslide in Seocheon-gun, killing a man in his 70s. 

Another man in his 70s died in Okcheon, North Chungcheong Province, after his car plunged into a swollen stream. In Daegu, a man in his 60s was found dead after being sucked into a drainage pipe while checking his vegetable field.

Authorities are searching for a 71-year-old man missing in Yeongdong, North Chungcheong, after his container shed floated away and his vehicle was found submerged.

Hundreds were evacuated from their homes as massive monsoon rains hammered the country. 

In Wanju, North Jeolla, 18 villagers were rescued from a swollen stream. In Nonsan, 30 residents evacuated to a village hall, while 40 residents in nearby Ganggyeong were also evacuated. 

Daejeon’s Yongchon-dong community saw 27 houses flooded, leaving 36 people stranded and requiring rescue operations.

In total, 76 households and 94 residents were relocated to village halls, community centres, and churches overnight in South Gyeongsang Province due to the rapidly rising Nakdong River.

The downpours also caused transportation disruptions. 

Korea Railroad Corp partially suspended or adjusted train services for Mugunghwa and ITX-Saemaeul. Train services on the Janghang Line in South Chungcheong and the Gyeongbuk Line in North Gyeongsang were suspended until 6 pm, while the Chungbuk Line halted services until 9am. 

Additionally, 21 flights at Gimhae International Airport were cancelled and 16 delayed due to strong winds as of 7am Wednesday.

President Yoon Suk Yeol, currently visiting the US, ordered the mobilisation of all available personnel and equipment to prioritise saving lives and preventing further damage. 

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min emphasised the need to minimise damage, given that the monsoon season is ongoing. The government raised the emergency operations of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters from level 1 to 2 as of 2.30 am Wednesday.

“Relevant agencies, including central government ministries and local governments, should prepare for worst-case scenarios and respond to disasters accordingly. Please make all-out efforts so that the victims of the heavy rain can quickly return to their daily lives,” said Lee.

A greenhouse in Wanju, North Jeolla Province, collapsed due to heavy rainfall on Wednesday. PHOTO: ANN/THE KOREA HERALD SOURCE