Authorities came under fire yesterday for allegedly “man-made” disasters in South Korea as the toll from this week’s record rainfall rose to 59 dead and 10 missing.
Among the dead were 16 killed when mudslides hit southern parts of Seoul on Wednesday and 13 who perished in a landslide in the Chuncheon region, 100km east of the capital.
Three others died in a landslide at Paju, north of Seoul.
Experts and news media attacked Seoul city authorities, accusing them of making the situation worse through an allegedly reckless development of hills near residential areas in the south of the capital.
Some of the hillside areas were -redeveloped into public parks and hiking tracks, meaning rainwater could not be absorbed easily, and natural waterways were changed to make artificial lakes, critics said.
“The heavens alone are not to be blamed for the disaster as reckless development made it worse. This is why there are claims the disaster is man-made,” Joongang Ilbo said in an editorial.
Experts have been warning that such activities might trigger landslides, it said.
“However, administrative authorities have turned a deaf ear to them,” the daily said in its editorial headlined “Showcase development triggered disaster.”
Some residents living under Mount Umyeon in southern Seoul, where eight landslides occurred, believe the disaster was preventable.
A storm last September felled many trees on the mountain, but official efforts to replace the trees had been slow, they told the Korea JoongAng Daily, leaving the mountain vulnerable to landslides.
The weather agency was also criticized for failing to forecast the freakishly heavy downpour, which battered the capital city of 10 million and densely populated surrounding areas.
A total of 301.5mm of rain fell in Seoul on Wednesday, the largest single-day rainfall in July since records began in 1907.
For three days from Tuesday, Seoul received 536mm of rain, the most for a three-day period in July since the same year.
The rains left more than 11,000 people from 5,250 households homeless. Power supply was cut to some 130,000 houses nationwide, the disaster management agency said.
The defense ministry said 17,000 soldiers across the country, backed by construction vehicles, would be mobilized yesterday to help a huge clean-up.
Heavy rains also battered North Korea, with the south and east of the country the worst-hit regions, according to state radio on Thursday.
It said nearly 100mm of rain hit the southwestern region of Haeju in just three hours early on Thursday.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference