Seoul, South Korea: 19 Dead & 1 Missing In Landslides

27 Jul

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South Korean rescue workers carry a survivor who was rescued from a collapsed house as a midnight landslide caused by torrential rains swept away several houses in Chuncheon, South Korea, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Heavy rain sent the landslide barreling into a resort in a northern South Korean town Wednesday. (AP Photo/Lee Sang-hak) KOREA OUT

South Korean rescue workers carry a survivor who was rescued from a collapsed house …

South Korean rescue workers carry a survivor who was rescued from a collapsed house as a midnight landslide caused by torrential rains swept away several houses in Chuncheon, South Korea, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Heavy rain sent the landslide barreling into a resort in a northern South Korean town Wednesday. (AP Photo/Lee Sang-hak) KOREA OUT

South Korean rescue workers carry a survivor who was rescued from a collapsed house …

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A blast of heavy rain sent landslides barreling through South Korea’s capital and a northern town Wednesday, killing 19 people, including 10 college students doing volunteer work.

The students were killed in an early morning landslide in Chuncheon, about 68 miles (110 kilometers) northeast of the capital, Seoul, said Byun In-soo of the town’s fire station. They were staying in a resort cabin when the mud and debris engulfed them. Also killed in Chuncheon were a married couple and a convenience store owner.

About 500 officials and residents worked to rescue people trapped in the mud and wreckage. Twenty-four people were injured and several buildings destroyed, officials said.

In southern Seoul, six people were killed when a wave of mud crashed through residential areas at the foot of a mountain, said Lee Sun-myeong, a city official. The dead were not yet identified. Officials earlier said that one child was missing, but fire official Kim Kyu-tae later said it wasn’t clear who the missing person was.

South Korea has been pummeled with strong rain this week.

About 15 inches (400 millimeters) fell in Seoul in just 17 hours starting Tuesday afternoon. More than 10 inches (250 millimeters) fell on Chuncheon in the last two days. Weather officials said another 10 inches could fall in northern South Korea, including Seoul, through Friday.

Fast-moving muddy water filled streets in Seoul on Wednesday, with people 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.

About 800 houses flooded, according to a city disaster official who declined to be named because of office policy. The official said 23 roads were closed in the city.

Local TV showed officials rescuing hikers stranded on mountainsides. People plodded down streets covered with knee-deep water, many barefoot, their pants rolled up. Cars were restricted from entering the lower part of a two-level bridge in the center of Seoul because it was submerged in water.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency issued a traffic emergency, mobilizing more officers to deal with the problems caused by the heavy rain.

Seoul officials said they were considering shutting down two major city highways stretching along each side of the main Han River because of rising water levels. Cha Jun-ho, an official at the government’s Han River Flood Control Office, said a dam located just east of Seoul was discharging 16,400 tons of water per second. The dam discharged about 1,000 tons per second days before the recent downpours began.

About 60 houses were cut off from roads in Seoul’s Hyeongchon village because of the heavy rain, and fire officials were trying to reach them, a local officer said, declining to be identified because of office procedure.

People in Seoul, where smartphones are ubiquitous, posted dozens of photos on Twitter and Facebook showing inundated streets and mud-covered cars. Many complained online that Seoul had neglected to prepare for such downpours.

___

Associated Press writers So Yeon Kwon and Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.

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