South Korean rescue workers have pulled out seven bodies from a bus trapped in a flooded underground tunnel, according to media reports, as days of torrential rain caused floods, landslides and massive overflowing of embankments.
Officials in the central city of Osung told Yonhap News Agency on Sunday that rescuers pulled six more bodies from the 685-meter (2,247-foot) long body while they were in a hurry to reach several people who remained there.
The four-lane tunnel sank on Saturday when the banks of the nearby Meihu River collapsed after three days of heavy rain.
According to media reports, the flood engulfed the tunnel so quickly that people could not escape.
Rescuers pulled a body out of the tunnel on Saturday and rescued nine people who survived by clinging to the sides of guardrails around the tunnel, officials said, according to the Korea Herald.
There were 15 cars, including the bus, and 12 cars stuck in the tunnel, and 11 people were missing on Saturday.
“There were a lot of cars inside the tunnel when the water started flowing in and it rose very quickly,” one of the nine survivors told Yonhap on Saturday.
I don’t understand why the tunnel wasn’t closed sooner. »
South Korea, which is at the height of the summer monsoon season, has been hit by heavy rains since July 9.
On Saturday evening, the Ministry of Interior and Security said landslides and floods caused by rain had killed 26 people on Saturday and Friday. All deaths were reported in the central and southeastern regions of the country.
The majority of the victims – including 17 dead and nine missing – were from North Gyeongsang Province, largely due to massive landslides in the mountainous region that swept away homes and people indoors.
In the hardest-hit areas, “whole homes were completely swept away,” said a rescue worker in Yonhap.
The ministry said the rains forced 5,570 people to evacuate their homes. This figure includes thousands of people who were ordered to flee their homes after the Goesan Dam in North Chungcheong Province began flooding on Saturday morning, flooding nearby low-lying villages.
He added that more than 4,200 people remained in temporary shelters on Saturday evening.
The ministry said heavy rains disrupted travel across the country, leading to the cancellation of about 20 flights and the suspension of regular train service and some express trains.
She added that nearly 200 roads remain closed.
President Yun Sok-yul, who was visiting Ukraine on Saturday, asked Prime Minister Han Duk-soo to mobilize all available resources to respond to the disaster, according to his office.
The prime minister urged officials to avoid river floods as well as landslides and requested support for rescue operations from the Defense Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Korea Meteorological Administration issued heavy rain warnings, saying that more rain is expected until Wednesday next week, and that the weather conditions pose a “serious” danger.
South Korea regularly experiences floods during the summer monsoon period, but the country is generally well prepared and the death toll is usually relatively low.
Last year it suffered record rains and floods that killed more than 11 people. They included three people who died trapped in a semi-basement apartment in Seoul of the kind made internationally famous by the Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite.
The South Korean government said at the time that the 2022 floods were the largest since weather records began in Seoul 115 years ago and blamed climate change on extreme weather.