At least 36 killed in flash floods and mudslides
Published 28/07/2011 | 05:00
Walls of mud barrelling down a hill buried 10 college students sleeping in a resort cabin and flash floods submerged the streets and subway stations in Seoul, killing at least 36 people yesterday in South Korea's heaviest rains this year.
The students were engulfed by a landslide in Chuncheon, about 110km north-east of Seoul, said fire marshal Byun In-soo. A married couple and a convenience store owner also died.
Witnesses said the landslide sounded like a massive explosion or a freight train. They described people screaming as buildings were carried away by rivers of mud.
About 670 firefighters, soldiers, police and others rushed to rescue those trapped and extract the dead from the mud and wreckage in Chuncheon, where 24 others were injured and several buildings destroyed.
In southern Seoul, 16 people died when mud crashed through homes at the foot of a mountain.
The National Emergency Management Agency reported seven deaths due to flooding in a stream just south of the capital and said the toll was expected to rise as dozens of people were missing.
Fast-moving mudwaters filled the streets in Seoul yesterday, sending residents scrambling to the roofs of their partially submerged cars.
Water filled some subway stations and spewed from sewers. TV images showed people in one flooded subway station using shovels, brooms and a wooden board in an effort to keep more rain from coming in.
Footage showed officials rescuing hikers stranded on mountainsides. People plodded down streets covered with knee-deep water, many barefoot, their pants rolled up.
The heavy rain since Tuesday left about 620 people homeless and flooded 720 houses and about 100 vehicles throughout South Korea, the emergency management agency said.
About 17 inches of rain fell on Seoul and more than 13 inches on Chuncheon in the last two days, about 15 times more than the average two-day rainfall at this time of year, according to the state-run Korea Meteorological Administration.
Weather officials said another 10 inches could fall in northern South Korea, including Seoul, through to tomorrow.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency issued a traffic emergency, mobilising more officers to deal with the inclement weather.
Seoul, a bustling capital of 10 million people, shut down portions of two major highways stretching along each side of the main Han River because of high water.