SOUTH KOREA: On Monday, President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea blamed authorities’ failure to adhere to disaster response protocols as the death toll from days of torrential rain climbed to 39, including a dozen individuals found dead in a submerged underpass.
The torrential rains have been relentlessly battering the central and southern regions of the country since Thursday as the rainy season, which began in late June, approaches its height. The interior ministry has also recorded 34 injuries nationwide and nine individuals missing.
Twelve people died, including three bodies discovered overnight, in the central city of Cheongju when a river levee failed and a flash flood engulfed 16 vehicles, including a bus. Nine additional people suffered injuries.
The incident raised concerns about South Korea’s attempts to mitigate and respond to flood damage. Regular users of the road have accused the authorities of failing to prohibit access to the subway despite widespread forecasts of flooding.
During the recent rainy seasons, floods have resulted in the loss of numerous lives due to increasingly extreme weather patterns.
The government pledged last year to take action to better prepare for climate change-related disasters after the biggest downpours in 115 years battered Seoul, especially the posh neighbourhood of Gangnam, leaving at least 14 dead and flooding homes, highways, and subways.
Yoon Suk Yeol, who had recently returned from an overseas trip, called an intra-agency conference on disaster response on Monday and stated that the situation had gotten worse because sensitive areas had not been managed properly.
Yoon told the meeting that “We’ve repeatedly emphasised access control over dangerous areas and preemptive evacuation since last year, but if basic principles of disaster response are not kept on the spot, it is difficult to ensure public safety.”
He urged authorities to use all available means to rescue the victims and pledged help for the recovery effort and the families who had been impacted, including designating flood-affected areas as special disaster zones.