Thu, Jul 28, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Landslides kill 32 in South Korea


Cars are submerged by floodwaters along a street after heavy rains hit the Seoul region of South Korea yesterday. Torrential rain triggered landslides that killed at least 32 people and flooded hundreds of homes.

Photo: AFP

A blast of heavy rain sent landslides barreling through South Korea’s capital and a northern town yesterday, killing at least 32 people, including 10 college students doing volunteer work, and leaving 10 missing.

The students were killed in an early morning landslide in Chuncheon, about 110km northeast of Seoul, said Byun In-soo of the town’s fire station. They were staying in a resort cabin when the mud and debris engulfed them. Also killed in Chuncheon were a married couple and a convenience store owner.

About 500 officials and residents worked to rescue people trapped in the mud and wreckage.

Twenty-four people were injured and several buildings destroyed, officials said.

In southern Seoul, 16 people were killed when a wave of mud crashed through residential areas at the foot of a mountain, said Lee Sun-myeong, a city official. The dead were not yet identified. Officials earlier said that one child was missing, but fire official Kim Kyu-tae later said it wasn’t clear who the missing person was.

South Korea has been pummeled with strong rain this week.

About 400mm fell in Seoul in just 17 hours starting on Tuesday afternoon. More than 250mm fell on Chuncheon in the last two days. Weather officials said 250mm could fall in northern South Korea, including Seoul, through Friday.

Fast-moving muddy water filled streets in Seoul yesterday, with people scrambling to the roofs of their partially submerged cars.

Water filled some subway stations and spewed from sewers. TV images showed people in one flooded subway station using shovels, brooms and a wooden board in an effort to keep more rain from coming in.

About 800 houses flooded, according to a city disaster official who declined to be named because of office policy. The official said 23 roads were closed in the city.

Local TV showed officials rescuing hikers stranded on mountainsides. People plodded down streets covered with knee-deep water, many barefoot, their pants rolled up. Cars were restricted from entering the lower part of a two-level bridge in the center of Seoul because it was submerged in water.

Seoul officials said they were considering shutting down two major city highways stretching along each side of the main Han River because of rising water levels.

Meanwhile, heavy rains and floods battered the northeastern Philippines for a third day as the death toll from a slow-moving storm rose to at least 20 with nine others missing. Waist-deep floodwaters swamped the houses of about half a million people, nearly half of the population of eastern Albay province, after Tropical Storm Nock-ten set off pounding rains since Monday and sent residents to seek shelter in churches and village halls, said Albay Governor Joey Salceda.

Most of the missing are poor fishermen who ventured out to sea despite the stormy weather, Civil Defense Administrator Benito Ramos said.

The storm made landfall yesterday in Aurora province with maximum winds of 95kph and gusts of up to 120kph. It weakened slightly after hitting land, forecaster Sonny Pajarilla said, and was expected to blow out of the country to the South China Sea by today.

Authorities cut off electricity to most of the region to prevent electrocutions, Ramos said.

One of the fatalities was Salceda’s mother, who fell on her head after slipping in the dark bathroom of her Legazpi home, Ramos said.

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