Fri, Jul 29, 2011 - Page 5 News List

S Koreans warned on landmines

Reuters, SEOUL

Soldiers remove tonnes of mud after a flood caused by heavy rains hit the area around an apartment complex in Seoul yesterday. Tens of thousands of South Korean troops joined a massive clean-up after record-breaking rainfall killed at least 53 people, flooded hundreds of homes and turned main roads into muddy rivers.

Photo: AFP

South Koreans were cautioned about rogue landmines and explosives yesterday after a series of deadly landslides in and around the capital Seoul swamped military sites, defense officials said.

At least 67 people are dead or missing from the landslides and flashfloods caused by the heaviest rainfalls in a century to hit the Seoul region, home to about 25 million people. The bill is expected to run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said about 10 landmines buried near an air defense artillery unit on a mountain in southern Seoul had not been recovered after a mudslide in the area smashed into dozens of homes on Wednesday. The mines were placed during 1950 to 1953 Korean War.

Explosives were also swept from an ammunition depot in Yangju, north of Seoul, when it collapsed under the weight of a mudslide. A military official said that all the explosives, including dozens of landmines, had been recovered.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff ordered units to check for any misplaced explosives in the affected regions.

The microblog forum Twitter was abuzz with anxious chatter about the lost landmines.

As more rain battered the mountainous region yesterday, authorities drafted in the military to help with rescue and cleanup operations.

“We have asked the Defense Ministry and police to help because the torrential rains and floods need to be controlled in cooperative nationwide system,” an emergency services spokesman said.

More than half a meter of rain has fallen in the Seoul region since late on Tuesday, the weather bureau said, in the heaviest deluge in July since 1907.

Power outages hit Seoul again yesterday, including a cut in a business district, but the financial services industry and market trading were not affected.

The storms also hit secretive North Korea, but there were no immediate reports of damage in its state media. Experts are worried about landslides, as the eroded hillsides are unstable.

A rescue operation was underway at a Buddhist monastery in Dongducheon, northeast of the capital, where a girl was believed buried under a mudslide. Three others were killed.

Dozens of landslides were reported around Seoul and streams turned into raging torrents, flooding low-lying areas and swamping thousands of cars.

Some bridges over the main Han River, which runs through the center of the city, were closed. Train services were also disrupted.

Authorities said more than 4,500 people had been forced out of their homes and many houses were without power.

Emergency services put the death toll at 53, with 14 people missing.

The share prices of insurers steadied after tumbling as much as 6 percent on Wednesday, but premiums are expected to rise causing further financial pain for homeowners already stung by rising inflation.

“Although their stocks recovered some of the losses from yesterday, the news flow doesn’t seem positive for the time being for insurers,” said Sung Yoon-hoon, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities, adding he expected costs to snowball.

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