2 more bodies found at rain pumping station

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2 more bodies found at rain pumping station

Two men in their 20s, including a Myanmar, were found dead on Thursday morning inside a rain water pumping station that was under construction in Yangcheon District, western Seoul, nearly a day after they went missing amid heavy rain.

Yangcheon firefighters identified the bodies as a 29-year-old Korean man who worked for Hyundai Engineering & Construction, the builder of the station project, and a 23-year-old Myanmar man who worked for Hyundai’s subcontractor.

A 65-year-old Korean man who worked for the same subcontractor was the first to be found dead on Wednesday morning, after heavy rain caused watergates to open inside the water pumping station the men were in, bringing the total death toll to three.

According to spokespeople from Hyundai Engineering & Construction and officials from the Yangcheon District Office, 65-year-old Koo entered a tunnel of the water pumping station with his Myanmar colleague at around 7:10 a.m. on Wednesday for a normal inspection, ignoring weather forecasts that predicted heavy rain that morning, which meant they weren’t supposed to go inside the tunnel.

Hyundai claimed it was not raining when Koo and his coworker went inside the tunnel, dodging criticism it forced the employees to work in dangerous conditions. Korea’s national weather agency issued a heavy rain watch at 7:30 a.m., 20 minutes after they entered the tunnel.

At 7:40 a.m., shortly after the heavy rain watch was issued, a water gate at the other side of the rain water pumping station opened, followed by another water gate at 7:44 a.m., sending strong currents of water inside the station’s tunnels.

Hyundai employee Ahn, 29, tried to reach Koo and the Myanmar to urge them to escape, but they couldn’t be reached by their walkie-talkies. Ahn decided to follow them into the tunnel at 7:50 a.m. to save them.

Ahn’s coworkers lost contact with him and called firefighters at 8:24 a.m. for help. Koo was found dead by rescuers at 10:26 a.m. near the tunnel’s entrance.

As to why Ahn entered the tunnel even after a heavy rain watch was issued, Hyundai explained that it normally took 40 minutes for water to flow from the water gates to the tunnel’s entrance, which is why the company assumed Ahn would be able to meet Koo and the Myanmar and get them out within that time span.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon visited the water pumping station on Thursday morning to receive briefings about the accident, and called on Hyundai and firefighters to get to the bottom of the case and device countermeasures.

BY KIM MIN-WOOK, SHIN HYE-YEON [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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