Prevent a massive disaster

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Prevent a massive disaster

As Typhoon Hinnamnor, the 11th of its kind so far this year, is expected to hit Korea with heavy rains and strong winds from Monday. The arrival of the super typhoon will likely wreak havoc on many parts of the country. In Okinawa, which was already hit by the typhoon, a number of residents were injured, roofs of countless houses fell apart and electricity was cut off due to the strong gusts.

The typhoon was first anticipated to weaken while passing through the Japanese archipelago, but the weather forecast says it will grow into a super-sized wind storm from high temperatures in the North Pacific. The likelihood of the mega typhoon rummaging through Jeju Island, Busan and the South Gyeongsang region within its 380-kilometer (236-mile) diameter sounds loud alarms.

Just a month ago, the country suffered serious damage, including a loss of precious lives in Seoul, after a downpour at night coupled with the authorities’ immature response to an upcoming disaster. The country may face another massive natural disaster even before it has recovered.

The government can hardly devise countermeasures overnight after sitting on its hands for long without building huge underground tunnels aimed at containing heavy torrential rains. But the government must first fix the most vulnerable spots if it does not want to repeat the tragic death of three members of a poor family living in a semi-basement apartment in Sillim dong, southern Seoul, last month. They could not escape the single room after the downpour filled it in such a short period of time.

The 320,000 households nationwide living in such dire conditions could experience similar tragedies. Fortunately, some residents could escape from their room thanks to help from their neighbors. The government must prepare effective systems for them to get help from neighbors at times of crisis.

The flood that struck Seoul in August also revealed that many of the 620,000 steel-made manholes in the city could kill citizens when they popped up from mounting pressure from the underground sewer system or when they disappeared from torrential rains. The Seocho District hurriedly installed a facility to prevent it as a quick fix, but no one knows when such accidents will be repeated.

There were testimonies that emergency calls were not answered. The authorities must urgently come up with guidelines to deal with such disasters. The last flood showed how vulnerable the poor are when a disaster hits them. The central and municipal governments must roll up their sleeves to protect the underprivileged before it is too late.
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