200-year heavy rains batter central and southern Korea, leaving 5 dead and 2 missing

Posted on : 2024-07-11 17:14 KST Modified on : 2024-07-11 17:14 KST
Heavy rains inundated the country, falling at a rate of over 100 mm per hour
A person sits on a fallen tree after torrential rains of over 100 mm per hour flooded their home in a rural area of South Chungcheong Province with soil and mud on the morning of July 10, 2024. (Yonhap)
A person sits on a fallen tree after torrential rains of over 100 mm per hour flooded their home in a rural area of South Chungcheong Province with soil and mud on the morning of July 10, 2024. (Yonhap)

A stationary front caused heavy rain of more than 100 mm per hour to fall between Tuesday evening and Wednesday Morning in central Korea, leading to five deaths and two people missing in central and southeastern regions of the country. Regular train services were also suspended due to concerns over landslides. The Meteorological Administration reported that the rainfall in areas such as Gunsan (131.7 mm per hour) was on a level to be expected once in 200 years.

Localized torrential rain led to three deaths in South Chungcheong Province on Wednesday. A man in his 50s was found dead in the first basement floor elevator of an apartment building in Nonsan at approximately 5:55 am. Police believe the man was attempting to move his car to avoid flooding and lost his life after becoming trapped in the elevator when it broke down. 

Earlier the same day, a man in his 70s was killed when his house collapsed in a landslide at 3:57 am in Biin Township, Seocheon County. At 10:48 am, a woman in her 60s from Jinsan, a township in Geumsan County, was found dead after her home was hit by a landslide. 

By 6 am, Seocheon, Nonsan and Buyeo in the central Korean province had seen rainfall of 198.6 mm, 172.9 mm and 171.3 mm, respectively. The highest cumulative rainfall since Sunday was in Nonsan, with 396.8 mm in total. (100 millimeters is equivalent to 3. 9 inches.)

In Simcheon, in North Chungcheong Province’s Yeongdong County, a person in their 70s went missing in the early hours of the morning, prompting police and members of the fire service to conduct a search operation. In Okcheon, a town in the province’s Okcheon County, a man in his 70s was killed when the car he was driving plunged into a river in the early morning. Police believe the accident occurred while the man was turning the vehicle on the embankment after checking in on his livestock.

In southeastern Korea, the bulk of the rainfall also arrived between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, leaving one person dead and one missing. 

A man in his 60s was found dead by his wife in a drain in the Joya neighborhood of Daegu’s Buk District at 8:08 am on Wednesday. According to police, the man was likely swept away by the rising current when he went outside to inspect the surrounding area during the heaviest period of rain in the early morning. 

On Tuesday, a woman in her 40s went missing in a stream in the rural village of Pyeongsa in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province. The Gyeongbuk Fire Service Headquarters has mobilized 241 staff and 34 units to search for the woman.

From 2:30 am to 8 pm, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety upgraded the disaster response level of the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters from Level 1 to Level 2 and also raised the heavy rain alert level from “attention” to “caution.” In the early morning, the Korea Forest Service raised the landslide warning from “caution” to “serious,” the highest level of alert, for the Daegu, Daejeon, Sejong, North and South Chungcheong provinces, North Gyeongsang Province and North Jeolla Province areas.

When railway facilities became inundated and concerns over landslides began to grow, KORAIL halted regular train services for certain sections. The Daejeon to Dongdaegu section of the Gyeongbu Line, the Seodaejeon to Iksan section of the Honam Line and all sections of the Gyeongbuk Line suspended operations for the day. 

The Chungbuk Line resumed operations from midday, while the Janghang Line is expected to resume operations across all sections from 6 pm once a safety inspection of the tracks is completed. “The KTX is operating as usual, but there may be delays caused by track inspections due to the extreme rain,” KORAIL stated.

The Meteorological Administration reported that five areas faced localized torrential downpours of more than 100 mm per hour until Wednesday morning, including Eocheong Island in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province (146 mm), the Naeheung neighborhood of Gunsan (131.7 mm), Hamna in Iksan (125.5 mm), Seocheon in South Chungcheong Province (111.5 mm) and Yanghwa in Buyeo (106 mm). The 146 mm that fell on Eocheong Island is the highest figure on record since automatic weather system monitoring began, and including the 131.7 mm per hour recorded in Gunsan, the amount of rain in Chupungnyeong, North Chungcheong Province (60.8mm) and Geumsan, South Chungcheong Province (84.1 mm) was on a level that should only occur once every 200 years, the administration added. The rain is forecast to continue after a brief respite.

By Song In-geol, Daejeon correspondent; Her Yun-hee, staff reporter; Jeong Bong-bi, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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