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Ill-prepared for torrential rain

Posted July. 28, 2011 07:56,   


Thirteen people were killed Wednesday in an early morning landslide in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. Most of those killed were university students who were doing volunteer work. Chuncheon was hit by 250 millimeters of rain falling from Tuesday through Wednesday morning. From 11 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, shortly before the landslide, torrential rain of 45.6 millimeters per hour fell. Mud containing rainwater could not withstand its weight and collapsed, covering the accommodations of the volunteers.

Nine people were also killed in a landslide in a posh village at the foot of Mount Umyeon in Seoul’s Seocho district. Subway operations were suspended due to the flooding of subway stations and major roads in downtown Seoul were also blocked. Power outages and communication interruptions also wreaked havoc on city residents. Gwanghwamun Intersection, which was inundated by heavy rain in September last year, was also submerged Wednesday.

Safety standards for flooding should be urgently raised. Unexpected heavy rain can fall at any time, so drainage ways, underground water storage systems and levees should be built in areas vulnerable to floods. Existing flood prevention facilities are ineffective against torrential rain because they were designed based on standards of the past. Accuracy of weather forecasts and public awareness of the danger of flooding should also be raised. The landslide in Chuncheon is akin to a manmade disaster. The Korea Meteorological Administration’s weather forecast was incorrect and residents in the affected areas were not evacuated though houses were deluged due to blocked drainage ways an hour before the accident. In Seoul, evacuation orders were repeatedly issued for people near Cheonggye Stream Monday night amid the forecast of regional torrential rain, but most of the people along the stream remained.

From Tuesday through 11 a.m. Wednesday, 410.5 millimeters of rain fell in Seoul, or half of the rainfall in this year’s rainy season. Some say Korea’s climate is turning subtropical due to global warming. Fears are also rising that Korea will experience a monsoon season as seen in the tropics and that lasts from June to September every year. Over the past decade, the country has seen more rainfall after the rainy season rather than during the rainy season. Traffic congestion occurred in the Chuseok holidays last year due to heavy rain. Torrential rain after the rainy season was expected this year as well, but lack of preparation caused the damage to snowball.

Poor preparation raises flood damage. No area is immune from the danger of floods. The central and provincial governments need to do everything they can to alleviate the damage from torrential rain.