Flash floods, mudslides kill 13 people in South Korea

Days of heavy rain trigger floods and mud slides, leaving 13 people dead and forcing more than 1,000 from their homes.

Heavy rain submerges a park beside the Han River in Seoul on August 3, 2020 [Ed Jones/ AFP]

Flash floods and mud slides triggered by days of heavy rains have killed at least 13 people and left 13 others missing in South Korea, according to officials.

More than 1,000 people were also forced from their homes in the capital Seoul and the surrounding provinces, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters said on Tuesday, warning of more severe weather in the coming days.

Six of the 13 victims died after a landslide buried temporary housing at a makeshift work site on a mountainside in Geyonggi Province, according to Yonhap news agency.

The 13 missing included a 60-year-old man whose truck was swept away in a flash flood in North Chungcheong province, the agency reported. 

The flooding has inundated more than 5,751 hectares (14,211 acres) of farmland and flooded parts of key highways and bridges in Seoul, Yonhap said, prompting the government to mobilise more than 25,000 police officers and volunteers to tackle the damage.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Paju in South Korea, said weather officials were forecasting between 50-100 mm of rain for Tuesday.

“The interior of South Korea is very hilly, very mountainous, and since the weekend we’ve had this torrential rain that have been causing flash floods and mud slides,” he said.

“Sadly, some of the people who’ve died or who are still missing have been caught in some of those mud slides. It’s all made worse by the fact we have Typhoon Hagupit working its way through China. It’s going to be downgraded to a tropical storm, but it is still feeding moisture into this weather system that stubbornly remains straddled across the Korean Peninsula.”

President Moon Jae-in was set to hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, after he had urged national and regional authorities to “make all-out efforts to prevent further loss of life” the previous day.

Work crews also returned to operation by Tuesday most of the flooded roads and bridges along the Han River in central Seoul that had backed up traffic and damaged infrastructure, Yonhap said.

In neighbouring North Korea, state media warned of possible flooding, saying that some areas were also experiencing heavy rainfall.

Citing unidentified South Korean government sources, Yonhap said North Korea opened the floodgates of a border dam on Monday without advance notice to its neighbour.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies