[EDITORIALS]Man-made natural disasters

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[EDITORIALS]Man-made natural disasters

Torrential rains drench the nation, bringing loss of life and property damage. Houses and rice paddies are inundated by the formidable onslaught of nature. But some regions -- in fact, the same regions as in previous years -- are going through a repeat inundation that smacks more of a man-made than a natural calamity.

Consider the four deaths at a facility of Siloam Center for the Visually Handicapped. The center was built on an artificially carved slope with a slant of 60 degrees. It should have been obvious that any big rain would bring a calamity. Another man-made casualty occurred in Yeongwol, Gangwon province, where half the city was submerged in 1990. The city began an additional drainage pumping center for low-lying regions, but 12 years haven't been enough to complete the project. The Gangseo and Yangcheon districts in Seoul, where some 4,000 households were flooded on the first day of the rain, are undergoing a rerun of last summer's disaster because of a drainage pump system that refuses to work on time. People along the Imjin and Hantan Rivers in northern Gyeonggi province live in anxiety because the rebuilding of the embankment and drainage system, begun after last summer's floods, is not yet completed.

The climate in the Korean Peninsula is changing. Torrential rainfalls now occur even after the traditional monsoon season is over. But the weather bureau, disaster relief and government officials are not keeping up with the changes. When residents and local government officials were trying to keep the Nakdong River from flooding, the mayor of Gyeongju went off to play golf because, he said, "Our city is safe." Several local government chiefs did not report to work after holidays, despite weather alerts. Deplorably, some Seoul metropolitan officials turned off their cell phones, cutting the last link in emergency contact command.

Fortunately, the rain has stopped. But the agony and worry of residents in flood-stricken areas are swelling. It is time for the government and private sector to join forces to restore and rebuild, and to provide relief and public health.
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