Worst Seoul Storm in 80 Years Kills Eight, Floods Capital

·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- At least eight people were killed and six people missing after one of the heaviest rain storms in 80 years hit Seoul, flooding streets and subway stations and causing blackouts.

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President Yoon Suk Yeol convened an emergency meeting at the country’s National Disaster and Safety Status Control Center Tuesday after the storm dumped as much as 141 millimeters (5.5 inches) of water an hour in parts of South Korea’s capital. Three of the eight victims drowned as their basement apartment filled with water, Yonhap News Agency reported. Local television showed drivers abandoning their cars in the upscale Gangnam district and residents wading in knee-high waters.

Another 300-350 millimeters of rain is forecast to fall through Thursday, the Meteorological Administration said, adding to risks of more flooding.

“I urge authorities to implement all-out measures until the situation comes to an end, to protect the lives and property of the people,” Yoon said. He added the government should revamp its disaster management, taking into account the effect of climate change.

“The torrential rain is believed to be from the abnormal weather caused by climate change, with the amount of rainfall per hour breaking the record high in the history of meteorological observation in our nation,” he said.

Unusually heavy rainfall and extreme heat waves have hit many parts of the world this year, killing thousands and displacing millions. The US Environmental Protection Agency says global warming is contributing to heavier rainfall, with warmer air allowing for more dense storm clouds which in turn produce more rain.

The torrential rains that started on Monday and continued into Tuesday also caused flooding in parts of the city center, turning some parking lots into ponds. Train and subway services were suspended on several lines, while numerous businesses asked their employees to work from home.

The hourly rain fall figures were the highest since a storm in 1942, Yonhap News Agency reported. Some areas of Seoul received more rain in one day than typically seen in an entire month in the summer, according to data from South Korea’s weather agency.

At least 163 people lost their homes and 751 buildings were flooded, the interior ministry said, adding that at least 11 ministries were involved in the government’s response to minimize the damage. Around 4,791 car owners have claimed for damages due to flooded or damaged cars Monday and Tuesday, with the total compensation estimated to be around 65.8 billion won, according to General Insurance Association of Korea.

South Korea will discharge waters on Wednesday from Soyang Dam, the largest dam with 2.9 billion tons of water-holding capacity, for the first time in two years. It would be the 17th discharge since the dam was built in 1973, according to the Korea Water Resources Corporation.

Parts of neighboring Japan were hit by torrential rains this week that triggered landslides and caused dozen of rivers to overflow their banks. Parts of the country were under storm surge advisories on Tuesday. North Korea has also been hit by heavy rain that threatens farms and forests, its official media said.

While some weather analysts said it was too early to say whether the latest storm was a result of climate change, others said the global trend was no coincidence.

“South Korea’s regular monsoon season usually begins late June and lasts through end of July. The monsoon is back in August and climate change is the only explanation to such torrential rainfall,” said Ban Ki-Song, forecast center head of Kweather, a private forecasting center based in Seoul.

(Adds insurance claims, comments on climate change)

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