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Deadly flash floods hit South Korea
AUGUST 27, 2014 06:30  
Heavy rain hit Busan and South Gyeongsang Province Monday, causing an unprecedented halting of the operation of Gori-2 nuclear power plant. Hourly rainfall reached as high as 130 millimeters, causing a building, which draws cooling water to the reactor, inundated with water that led to suspension of the operation of the water intake pump. As a result, the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation manually stopped the operation of the plant. This sparked anxiety by the public even though it wasn`t the nuclear reactor building that was affected.

When tsunami hammered Japan in 2011, the emergency generator at basement of the Fukushima nuclear power plant was flooded and cooling was impossible, which led to accident. For Gori-2 plant, it was the water intake pump that stopped making it impossible to deliver cooling water. Electricity was also off. The Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation said the control panel that enables operation of the pump was positioned too low causing the inundation, but it is wonder why no one found problem of the positioning when Korea`s nuclear power plant safety inspection was promoted after the Fukushima accident. The government released some 40 safety enforcement measures after the Japan accident but failed to include adjustment of the control panel. Safety inspection should be strengthened in all nuclear power facilities for any future heavy rains.

Heavy rains paralyzed city functions in Busan and South Gyeongsang Province, causing huge property losses. Nuclear power plant, subways and trains suspended operation, and five were killed and 200 injured. Part of the reason for the huge damage is little development progress of Busan after the Korean War in 1950. However, the bigger reason is safety ignorance, loose disaster preparations and the government`s complacency. A senior citizen center in Busan suffered a landslide due to heavy rains on Aug. 18 causing soil erosion, but the district office ignored to the residents` reporting saying budget and manpower are not sufficient.

The Korean Peninsula is turning into a subtropical region resulting in abnormal weather like heavy rain and snow. The region has been suffering from the heaviest rains in 100 years with fresh records every year. Disaster design standards should be strengthened in preparation for constant heavy rains while the Korea Meteorological Administration should foster weather forecast capability. What is more important is to equip a system that enables prompt response to disaster forecasts. The severe damages in Busan and South Gyeongsang Province show that safety ignorance and complacency can lead to massive disaster.

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