Seoul, The Indonesia Post – Eight bodies of victims were evacuated from a flooded underground tunnel in Cheongju, South Korea, on Sunday, the country’s authorities said.
The death toll from the disaster has reached 37 people.
An estimated 15 vehicles, including one bus, were submerged in the underpass after a nearby river embankment collapsed due to the heavy rains on Saturday, said Seo Jeong-il, head of the city’s fire department.
Car camera footage shows muddy water rushing into the tunnel as a driver manages to get out of it.
CCTV footage broadcast by local TV station MBC showed vehicles crossing the tunnel with their wheels submerged in water.
“Our target is to complete the (water) draining and searching (today),” Seo told media.
The death toll in the tunnel was nine, one of whom was evacuated on Saturday, he said.
A Cheongju resident named Kong Seong-pyo, 60, who frequently uses the underpass, said the government should limit access to the tunnel when flooding is expected.
“If I was trapped there, I might as well have died. I have no words to express this feeling of frustration,” Kong told Reuters.
A North Chungcheong provincial official argued that the river embankment collapsed before rainfall reached levels requiring restricted access to the tunnel.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Safety said nine people were reported missing across South Korea as of 18.00 (16.00 WIB) due to landslides and flooding.
Authorities have ordered the evacuation of 8,852 people.
The ministry’s data does not include casualties in submerged tunnels because it is unclear how many people were trapped there.
The disaster came despite South Korea’s pledge to increase preparedness for heavy rains after the capital Seoul was hit by floods resulting from the heaviest rains in 115 years.
Last year’s floods submerged the ground floors of apartments in low-lying neighborhoods, including the elite Gangnam area.
President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is visiting overseas, is holding an emergency meeting online. He said a number of areas failed to anticipate extreme weather.
He ordered Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to mobilize all resources to minimize the death toll.
Yoon also urged the Korea Meteorological Agency to release the forecast soon as heavy rains are expected to continue in the coming days, according to the president’s office.
The agency said that central and southern South Korea could see up to 300 millimeters of rain through Tuesday.
Despite frequent heavy rains in summer, South Korea has recorded a drastic increase in heavy rains in recent years.
Rail operator Korea Railroad Corp has halted all regular and some high-speed trains since Saturday over fears of landslides, submerged tracks and rock slides. (mhn/bbs)