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(SEOUL, South Korea) — Heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning has battered central areas of South Korea for two consecutive days, causing damage, injuries and deaths.
Ten people died and seven others were missing in the heavy rains over the past two days, according to South Korea’s central headquarters for disasters and security countermeasures. A family of three living in a semi-basement apartment died when their home was flooded in Gwanak-gu, Seoul, officials said.
The heaviest rainfall on record since South Korea began tracking rainfall data has flooded subway stations and submerged roads and homes.
The Korea Meteorological Administration said the rainfall was the result of a strong collision between cold, dry air from the north and warm, humid air from the south.
Thousands of vehicles were submerged in Seoul on Monday evening, forcing drivers to abandon their cars on the flooded road to return home. Muddy water overflowed from the river onto the streets and into vehicles. Public sewers overflowed, unable to hold back the amount of rain that poured in quickly and hard.
“It rained 140 millimeters (5.5 inches) in Seoul’s Dongjak district in just one hour on Monday evening. Seoul city’s annual rainfall is 1,400 millimeters (55 inches), which means that ‘in just one hour, one-tenth of Seoul City’s annual rainfall fell on just one part of the city in a very short time,’ said Lee Young-joo, professor of fire prevention science at Seoul University, ABC News.
Hundreds of people living in mountainous areas of Seoul were evacuated to avoid damage from landslides late Monday. Civil servants moved residents living in lower-level houses and near mountains to temporary shelters. The heavy rains that fell after 6 p.m. on Monday were particularly hard on people commuting to their homes from work.
“When I got out of work, the water was up to my knees and the children had a hard time wading through the flooded water,” Dong-Ug Yoon, a citizen of Seoul, told ABC News. his difficult journey home. “The subway station was full of dirt. The tradeswoman in the underground convenience store was visibly moved, trying to hold back the water gushing down the station stairs into her store.”
The Gangnam district, well known for its posh streets and office buildings, was hit hard by the rain due to its topographical features. The Gangnam subway station area is known to be 30 feet lower than nearby subway stations, making it more vulnerable to heavy rains and flooding.
“Cars and buses were overwhelmed by the flood so I had to park my car on a relatively safe side of the road and walk back. It took almost two hours trying to find roads that weren’t underwater yet,” said Yewon Lee, an organist. living in Seoul, told ABC News. “When I got back early this morning I found other vehicles that floated up and crashed into my car.”
The Seoul Metropolitan Government repaired the Gangnam drainage facility after the area was flooded by heavy rains in 2010.
Lee, the professor, said the amount of rain that has poured since Monday was far beyond the scale a reasonable drainage system could handle.
President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered officials at an emergency meeting on Tuesday to “respond wholeheartedly with a sense of vigilance.” He ordered authorities to put in place precautionary entry restrictions in areas prone to landslides and floods and promptly communicate the measures to the public.
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