Heaviest Rains in 80 Years Leave 8 Dead in Seoul

SEOUL, South Korea — Some of the heaviest rain in decades swamped South Korea’s capital region, turning Seoul’s streets into car-clogged rivers and sending floods cascading into subway stations. At least eight people were killed — some by drowning in their homes — and seven others were missing, while more rain was forecast.

On Tuesday, water receded and scattered abandoned cars and buses across the streets. This was because workers removed trees, mud, and debris and blocked roads. Nearly 50 cities and towns were issued landslide alerts. 160 hiking routes in Seoul were also shut down in Gangwon, a mountainous province.

“The heavy rainfall is expected to continue for days … we need to maintain our sense of alert and respond with all-out effort,” President Yoon Suk Yeol said at the government’s emergency headquarters. He directed officials’ attention to areas vulnerable to landslides or flooding and to reducing the dangers of roads and facilities already damaged to prevent more deaths.

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Most of Seoul’s subway services were back to normal operations, but dozens of roads were closed due to safety concerns. Moon Hong-sik, a spokesperson for Defense Ministry, stated that the military is ready to send troops to assist with relief efforts in case cities and regional governments request it.

Rain began on Monday morning, and continued through the night.

By nightfall, people were wading through thigh-high waters in streets in Gangnam, one of Seoul’s most bustling business and leisure districts, where cars and buses were stuck in mud-brown waters. Commuters were forced to evacuate as water gushed down the steps of the Isu metro station like a waterfall. A rain-weakened hillside was transformed into a soccer pitch in the city of Seongnam.

The debris of a flood-damaged market in Seoul, South Korea on August 9th 2022 is being cleaned up by people.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Rescue workers failed to reach three people – two sisters in their 40s and a 13-year-old girl – who called for help before drowning in a basement home in the Gwanak district of southern Seoul Monday night. Another victim drowned in her Dongjak home. A public worker was clearing fallen trees. It is likely that the electrocution caused it. Choi Seon-yeong, an official from the Dongjak district ward office, said it wasn’t immediately clear whether the water was electrified because of a damaged power source or equipment the man was using.

In the aftermath of the landslides, three people died in the bus station collapse in Hwaseong and Gwangju.

Four people went missing in southern Seoul’s Seocho district, which is also home to the private residence of Yoon, who, according to his office, spent hours on the phone receiving briefings and issuing instructions overnight as the rain flooded some of the streets near his high-rise apartment complex.

According to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, nearly 800 Seoul-area buildings and other nearby areas were severely damaged and 790 residents were forced from their homes.

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The country’s weather agency maintained a heavy rain warning for the Seoul metropolitan area and nearby regions on Tuesday and said the precipitation may reach 5 to 10 centimeters an hour (2 to 4 inches) in some areas. The weather agency predicted that the capital would see between 10 and 35 cm (4 to 14 inches), more rain through Thursday.

More than 43 centimeters (17 inches) of rain were measured in Seoul’s hardest-hit Dongjak district from Monday to noon Tuesday. That area recorded 14 cm of precipitation per hour (5.5 in) Monday night. This is the most significant daily rainfall measured in Seoul since 1942.

North Korea also saw heavy rainfalls. Officials issued warnings about the dangers of flooding in the south and west parts. The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper described the rain as potentially “disastrous” and called for measures to protect farmland and prevent flooding on the Taedong river, which flows through the capital, Pyongyang.

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