Death toll rises as heavy rains persist in South Korea

Update 1: Updates death toll number, info about North Korea

Seoul, Jul 17 (EFE).- South Korea’s president ordered the designation of special disaster zones as the monsoon front lashing the country since last week continued on Monday and the death toll continued to rise.

In addition to 40 deaths, at least nine people are missing and more than 10,500 people have evacuated, according to the latest data from authorities.

In the province of North Gyeongsang, one of the most affected, there are 19 deaths, the majority due to landslides, according to the latest data from the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, where President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday chaired a meeting.

Yoon ordered the mobilization of all available resources and policy measures, including designating hard-hit areas as special disaster zones to enable state support, Yonhap news agency reported.

“There is no way to suppress my sadness. I pray for the souls of those killed in the heavy rains and offer words of comfort to the bereaved families,” Yoon said during the meeting, hours after returning from Europe, Yonhap reported. “We all need to take the situation gravely and mobilize all available resources.”

In the city of Cheongju, some 100 kilometers south of Seoul, operations continued to recover vehicles that were trapped in an underground tunnel due to the sudden flooding caused on Saturday by a nearby river bursting its banks.

Firefighters have recovered four more bodies from inside the tunnel, about 685 meters long, which brings the number of fatalities there to 13. It is feared that the figure could rise as the water trapped some 15 vehicles and there are still people missing.

More than 10,500 people have evacuated across the country, up around 1,000 on the previous day.

Although the rains have left some 28,000 homes without electricity at some point in recent days, power has already been restored to most.

According to the data, the central and northern regions of the country have received an average of more than 500 millimeters of accumulated rain since July 9.

It is in these areas, where another 200 millimeters is expected between Monday and Tuesday, where the maximum alert for heavy rainfall is maintained.

Although the rains have not hit North Korea as hard, some areas on the border with the South or in the northwest of the country accumulated around 100 millimeters of rain before the weekend.

The monsoons often wreak major havoc in the North, destroying homes and flooding crop fields, affecting the already delicate food situation in the impoverished country.

However, state media tends to report only briefly on the damage caused by summer rains.

North Korean state agency KCNA reported Monday that Prime Minister Kim Tok-hun inspected farms in the south of the country over the weekend and urged efficient management of drainage and drainage systems.

Last year the monsoons caused significant damage to the border with the South and it is believed that it could have left a significant number of deaths, since the bodies of four North Koreans were found on the other side of the divide after being washed away by the waters. EFE


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