39 Dead, 8 Missing in Torrential Rains

Trapped citizens wait for rescue at an intersection near the Gangnam subway station on Wednesday morning. /Yonhap Trapped citizens wait for rescue at an intersection near the Gangnam subway station on Wednesday morning. /Yonhap

A record downpour on Wednesday left 39 people dead and eight missing in Korea. It was the most rainfall since Korea began gathering weather data in 1907. Some 620 people were left homeless, while the power at 66,093 homes was cut off and 720 homes were inundated.

Seoul was paralyzed once again by torrential rain. Heavy downpours began on Tuesday afternoon and continued sporadically until Wednesday. Accumulated rainfall recorded until 10 p.m. on Wednesday was 579 mm in Yangju, 545 mm in Pocheon, 527.5 mm in Dongducheon, 517 mm in Hanam, and 503.5 mm in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province, 465 mm in Seoul and 440.5 mm in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province.

The amount of rain that fell on Seoul from Tuesday to Wednesday beat the previous record precipitation for the month of 390.6 mm recorded on July 10, 1940.

The downpours triggered a landslide at a mountain resort in Chuncheon early Wednesday morning, killing 13 students from Inha University in Incheon who were there doing volunteer work at a nearby elementary school during their summer vacation. Another landslide in a suburb in southern Seoul left 17 people dead. Swelling waters at a stream in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province killed six people, and three bodies were found after a landslide in Paju just north of Seoul.

Parts of Mt. Umyeon in Seocho in Seoul are washed by torrential rains on Tuesday and Wednesday. Parts of Mt. Umyeon in Seocho in Seoul are washed by torrential rains on Tuesday and Wednesday.

◆ Gangnam Hit Hardest

Wednesday's deluge submerged many parts of the affluent Gangnam area of southern Seoul. Drivers abandoned their cars in waist-deep water, while mobile phone services were immobilized when rainfall damaged signal relay stations. Traffic at the Gangnam intersection, one of the busiest in Seoul, came to a grinding halt. Power-lines in the Gangam and Seocho districts became submerged on Wednesday morning, triggering a blackout that affected 20,000 households. A dozen banks around the Gangnam intersection were shut due to the power outage.

◆ Traffic Paralyzed

The rain submerged some subway lines, main highways and low-lying parts of the capital, creating hellish conditions for commuters. Parts of Gwanghwamun in downtown Seoul were submerged in waist-deep water, causing traffic to come to a halt. Police blocked some 20 areas in the capital, trapping millions of commuters in their vehicles and causing many to report late to work.

Vehicles are submerged in floodwaters at the Daechi Intersection in Gangnam, Seoul on Wednesday morning. /Yonhap Vehicles are submerged in floodwaters at the Daechi Intersection in Gangnam, Seoul on Wednesday morning. /Yonhap

◆ More Rain Predicted

Weathermen forecast another 250 mm of rainfall between Thursday and Friday in Seoul and other parts of central Korea. High winds and thunderstorms are also expected between Thursday night and Friday morning, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The KMA predicted more than 60 mm of rain per hour in Seoul, Gyeonggi Province, northern Chungcheong Province and Gangwon Province with some areas seeing between 50 to 150 mm or even 250 mm of precipitation. It also warned of more landslides.

The rain could bring accumulated precipitation between Tuesday and Friday to as much as 700 mm, or half of the average annual rainfall of 1,450.5 mm in the capital.

The total amount of rain that fell on the capital between June 22, the start of the summer monsoon, and Wednesday was 1,259.5 mm, or 86.8 percent of the average yearly precipitation.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 28, 2011 08:57 KST