Businesses in Gangnam suffering from blackouts

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Businesses in Gangnam suffering from blackouts

Some residents in affluent Gangnam District are still suffering from property damage and economic losses to their businesses after recent floods caused a week-long blackout in their properties.

Tenants of a number of buildings in southern Seoul’s Daechi-dong found their lowest floors swamped two weeks ago when torrential rain washed through the city and claimed 30 lives in the capital.

One property near Daechi subway station saw its power substation, located on the fourth basement floor, critically damaged by the floods, stripping occupants of power last week.

“I don’t know how I’ll be able manage for another year,” said Kang Ho-sug, the 45-year-old owner of a sashimi restaurant located inside the building.

“Even apart from the damage to my property, the blackout has made it virtually impossible to do business.”

Kang said he made an operating loss of 20 million won ($18,520) for the week and lost half as much again in damage to the property.

“This is not the first time the building has been deluged,” he said. “For the last two summers, the basement floors were flooded and the substation was affected.”

He said other buildings were more fortunate because their core electric facilities are built above ground level, and questioned the usefulness of a water containment tank that was recently added to the building.

“They said it was to stop the substation from flooding but I really wonder what difference it was supposed to have made.”

An electrician with the surname Yang, who had been dispatched to fix the substation, said the power generators and boilers were also damaged and out of service. Repairs could take until the Chuseok holiday in late September, he added. “It’s lucky that nobody was down here that morning as they would most likely have been killed,” he said.

Kim Jong-tae, 30, another restaurant owner in the same building, also claims to have lost 30 million won as this time of the year usually sees peak sales.

Meanwhile, other business owners working in properties with power sources located slightly higher at first-basement level were already back in business. “The tenants are now paying for emergency electricity to get things rolling again before Chuseok,” said a man surnamed Kang, who has a piano shop in the basement of the Eunma Store building in the same area.

The ceiling of the entire floor had been ripped out and scores of pianos were covered in plastic in a desperate attempt to protect the parts of them that had not yet been rain-damaged.

“The damage is almost 700 million won ($647,249) even without my operating losses,” Kang said. “But all we get from the government is one million won in compensation.”

Lee Sang-jun, a professor of architectural design at Yonsei University, said the residents were not in a position to litigate against the developers.

“Having substations underground is a general trend, and the buildings in that area meet local government standards,” he said.

But during an Aug. 4 briefing at Seoul City Hall, Mayor Oh Se-hoon apologized to the public and vowed to revise standards to stop substations and machine rooms from being installed in lower floors.

By Yu Seung-jong, Kim Yun-ji []
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