Violent currents of water devouring people, houses, cars and everything in their path, and a river overflowing by heavy rains, are images broadcast by the local media, as well as rescuers making an effort to reach a dozen people trapped in a tunnel due to the rains that have plagued the country since July 13.
The consecutive rains registered in South Korea are an extreme weather phenomenon that has caused the death of at least 33 people. Another 10 are missing due to floods and landslides, according to a new balance released this Sunday by the government. Most of the victims were residents of North Gyeongsang province, one of the nine provinces that make up South Korea,
According to the Yonhap news agency, an underground tunnel in Cheongju, a town in that province, was flooded on Saturday morning, after rising waters prevented the people inside from escaping. As of Sunday, seven bodies had been recovered from the tunnel and divers were working tirelessly to search for more victims.
The floods hit the area surprisingly quickly, leaving many people without enough time to evacuate. As the water level continues to rise, it is impossible to accurately determine the number of people trapped in their vehicles.
“I’m hopeless, but I can’t leave,” a parent of one of those missing in the tunnel told Yonhap. “My heart crumples thinking about how painful it must have been for my son to be in the cold water.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is on a foreign trip, ordered Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to mobilize all available resources, holding an emergency meeting to deal with heavy rains and floods that have devastated various areas of the country during the last three days.
An urgent evacuation of 6,400 inhabitants was ordered by the authorities, as they were in danger of the central Goesan county dam overflowing.
South Korea’s meteorological authority issued a warning that more rain is expected until Wednesday, stressing that weather conditions still pose a “serious” danger. For his part, the South Korean Prime Minister, Han Duck-soo, has requested the help of the Ministry of Defense to intensify the rescue operations.
South Korea is not the only country in Asia facing the devastating consequences of heavy rains. This week, both Japan and China have been particularly hard hit, raising the number of weather-related casualties across the region. These persistent precipitations are part of a global context of exceptionally intense rainfall phenomena in multiple regions, which ignites alerts regarding climate change.