Unseasonable deluge ruins Chuseok mood

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Unseasonable deluge ruins Chuseok mood


Soldiers and policemen help clear debris from houses inundated by torrential rain in Hwagok-dong, Seoul, yesterday. In response to the unprecedented heavy rain in late September, the worst in 102 years, the government dispatched policemen, soldiers, civil servants and firefighters to damaged areas for recovery work. Below, a satellite image from Tuesday shows a dense rain front concentrated around the capital area. [YONHAP]

Government officials and public servants activated emergency aid programs yesterday to help people battered from sudden torrential rains that flooded central regions of the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, the first day of the Chuseok holidays.

Seoul was drenched with 100 millimeters of rain per hour Tuesday. The government estimates one fatality and one person missing. The total number of people badly affected by the torrent was estimated at 11,919.

According to government statistics, the number of damaged houses in metropolitan regions was estimated at about 14,000.

President Lee Myung-bak said Tuesday the government would offer restoration subsidies for local governments in Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, and assign about 1 million won ($861) per damaged house.


The Seoul city government said it received 5.6 billion won from the government and spent about 1.8 billion won by yesterday. Incheon said it used 600 million of 2 billion won in relief funds. Gyeonggi received 1.2 billion won and used 350 million won.

“We have seen some climate changes recently and we should not make plans based on the past weather records,” Lee said. “We have to take preventive measures against disasters breaking out from now on after inspecting the overall system of housing and sewage in cities.”

The president visited three houses in Sinjeong 1-dong - the most battered area in Seoul - on the second day of the holiday with the district leader and the mayor of Seoul.

The Disaster and Safety Management Office under the Ministry of Public Administration and Security dispatched 4,000 fire trucks, 9,270 fire fighters and 13,000 civil servants to help flooded households, while finishing draining work yesterday.

The Ministry of National Defense went into emergency mode yesterday and dispatched 1,400 soldiers for garbage collection to prevent waterborne diseases such as cholera. Police also dispatched 22,000 workers.

“I really appreciated the soldiers pumping water out of my house,” said a 54-year old woman living in a basement apartment in Seoul. “I was really sorry not to even serve them a cup of coffee because we have no gas now.”


Cars push their way through flash floods on Tuesday at Gwanghawmun Plaza in central Seoul, which saw 100 millimeters of rainfall per hour. [NEWSIS]

In Sinjeong-dong, residents and police worked together to clear flooded residences, and said they needed more help because the damage was so widespread.

“I definitely need a disinfection service from the government because I saw sewage flowing back from a sinkhole in the kitchen and a drain in the bathroom as well,” said a 43-year old woman living in a basement apartment in Sinjeong-dong.

According to Yonhap news agency, Incheon, where 263 millimeters (10.35 inches) of rain was recorded on Tuesday, dispatched 2,500 civil servants for drainage, cleaning and disinfection services.

“I am speechless because the place is so devastated,” said a resident in Gyeyang District, Incheon, in an interview with Yonhap yesterday.

According to Yonhap, an embankment near an apartment collapsed and damaged nine automobiles in Gyesan-dong, Gyeyang District, Incheon. More than 100 policemen and civil servants removed the broken embankment and replaced it with a temporary one made of dirt and sandbags.

Gyeonggi Province, where the rainfall was 98 millimeters per hour, sent 4,000 workers to give relief to 2,777 households. The Republic of Korea National Red Cross provided 571 sets of medical and relief supplies to residents and lent vehicles to be used for meal services. In Gangwon Province, which had 89 people stranded by floods, the air force dispatched troops to remove water and sand from homes.

Some of the public blamed heavy damage from flooding - which they called “water bombs” - on the late response to the emergency by civil servants.

“We had difficulties in calling civil servants who were outside of the city for the holidays,” said an authority in the Disaster and Safety Management Office. “But we stayed all night to do the draining work and finally finished all jobs today.”

Questions were raised about the drainage and sewage system for Gwangwhamun Plaza in central Seoul, which was drenched with 259.5 millimeters of rainfall on Tuesday - the most rain on one day in 102 years - and where sewage flowed out of the drains.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article

102년 만에 9월 하순 가장 많은 비

23일 오후 1시 서울 광화문 세종로 사거리에서 지하 1층 카페를 운영하는 오강석(51)씨는 물에 잠긴 집기들을 치우고 있었다. 오씨는 “서울 도심 한가운데 홍수가 날 거라고 누가 상상이나 했겠느냐”고 말했다. 추석 연휴 첫날인 21일 서울에 내린 기록적인 폭우로 오씨의 가게는 허리까지 물이 찼다. 에어컨·냉장고 등 가전기구는 모두 고장 났고, 소파·식탁도 물에 젖어 못 쓰게 됐다. 오씨는 “광화문에서만 12년 장사를 했는데 이런 경우는 처음”이라고 했다. 오씨의 가게뿐만 아니라 세종로 사거리 근처 지하상가는 크고 작은 피해를 보았다. 그러나 구청 등에 복구대책을 요구할 상가협의체가 없다고 한다. 이유는 간단하다. 지금까지 이런 피해를 본 적이 없었기 때문이다.

이날 서울 지역 하루 강수량은 259.5㎜로 9월 하순 강수량으로는 기상관측이 시작된 1908년 이래 가장 많았다. 특히 이번 비는 시간당 70~100㎜까지 집중적으로 쏟아져 배수시설이 감당해 내지 못했다. 이로 인해 ‘수퍼 도시홍수’가 발생한 것이다.

홍수는 크게 세 가지 형태로 나뉜다. 하천홍수와 연안홍수는 전통적인 개념이다. 도시홍수는 ‘물이 빠져나가지 못해서 도심이 침수되는 것’을 의미한다. 광화문광장과 인근 도로가 갑자기 물에 잠긴 것은 도시홍수의 한 사례다.

연세대 조원철(사회환경시스템공학부) 교수는 “도로와 인도의 경계인 연석의 높이(25~30㎝)보다 높게 물이 차 오르면 극심한 도시홍수가 발생했다고 볼 수 있는데, 이번 홍수는 이런 수준을 뛰어넘는 것”이라고 말했다.
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