The bodies of eight people trapped in a tunnel flooded by heavy rains in central South Korea were recovered on Sunday, officials said, raising the country’s death toll from days of torrential rains to 37. Seo Jeong-il, head of the West Cheongju Fire Station, estimated that 15 vehicles, including a bus, were submerged in the city’s underpass shortly after Saturday’s rain destroyed a dam in a nearby river.
A dashcam video showed muddy water rushing into the tunnel as a driver exited the underpass, while other CCTV footage aired by local broadcaster MBC showed vehicles driving through the tunnel with their wheels submerged. “Our aim is to complete the drainage and search operations (today),” Seo told reporters.
He said the death toll in the tunnel was nine, including one body found on Saturday. Kong Seong-pyo, a 60-year-old Cheongju resident who regularly uses the underpass, said the government should have restricted access to the tunnel when floods were expected.
“If I was underwater, I would have died too. I have no words to express this desperate feeling,” Kong told Reuters. The Interior and Security Ministry said nine people were missing across the country as of 6 pm (0900 GMT), with 8,852 people under evacuation orders as heavy rains triggered landslides and flooding.
The ministry’s data did not include those in the flooded tunnels as it was not immediately clear how many people were trapped under the water. The latest disaster comes despite South Korea vowing to step up flood preparedness after last year’s heaviest rainfall in 115 years led to flooding in Seoul.
A North Chungcheong provincial official said the dam unexpectedly collapsed before the rain reached enough to restrict access to the tunnel. President Yoon Suk-yeol, currently on an overseas trip, convened a video-linked response meeting and said some regions had failed to take precautionary measures against extreme weather.
Yoon ordered Prime Minister Han Duk-soo to mobilize all available resources to minimize damage and asked the weather agency to quickly release forecasts as more heavy rain is expected in the coming days, his office said. The central and southern parts of the country are expected to receive an additional 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain by Tuesday, the Korea Meteorological Administration said.
While South Korea often experiences heavy rains during the summer, recent years have witnessed a sharp increase in torrential rains. The Korea Railroad Corporation has suspended all slow trains and some bullet trains since Saturday due to safety concerns about landslides, track flooding and falling rocks.
(This story has not been edited by DavidDiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)