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Four dead in record torrential rains in South Korea
  • | AFP | July 10, 2024 11:24 AM
Parts of South Korea were battered by record rainfall typically seen just once every 200 years, the country's weather agency told AFP Wednesday, with the interior ministry reporting four dead.

"Three regions saw rainfall at the highest level, the probability of which is seen about every 200 years," an official from South Korea's meteorological agency told AFP.

Three areas -- Geumsan in South Chungcheong, Chupungnyeong in North Chungcheong and Gunsan in North Jeolla -- experienced some of the heaviest hourly downpours on record, weather department data showed.

"This is not calculated based on past records," a spokesperson from the agency told AFP, adding that full records began in 1904.

"When the intensity of precipitation is calculated by region, it shows that such an event would be expected to occur once in 200 years."

In Gunsan, 131.7 mm (more than five inches) of rain fell within one hour early Wednesday -- more than 10 percent of the area's average annual precipitation.

Some rivers overflowed and roads were flooded by heavy rain, images on South Korean broadcasters showed, with people seen wading through waist-deep water in some areas.

The rainfall led to four deaths, the interior ministry said.

Rescuers found a body trapped inside an elevator after a studio apartment was flooded in Nonsan, South Chungcheong, early Wednesday, Yonhap news agency reported.

Another victim was found dead after being sucked into a drainage system while checking his crops in the city of Daegu, it said.

One man in a car, returning home from tending to his cattle, was swept into a stream -- still inside his vehicle -- in North Chungcheong. His body was retrieved nearly three hours later. A man in his 70s died after a house collapsed in a landslide in Seocheon, the news agency reported.

Train operators have suspended some services covering the southern region affected by the downpours.

"I ask that people refrain from going to underground parking spaces, underpasses and streams during heavy rainfall," Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said in a statement.

South Korea is in the middle of its summer monsoon season.

The country is regularly hit by flooding during the summer monsoon period, but is typically well-prepared and the death toll is usually relatively low.

Scientists say climate change has made weather events around the world more extreme and more frequent.

Last July, more than a dozen people died when an underpass flooded, with waters sweeping in too quickly for the vehicles inside to escape.

South Korea also endured record-breaking rains and flooding in 2022, which left more than 11 people dead.

They included three people who died trapped in a Seoul basement apartment of the kind that became internationally known because of the Oscar-winning Korean film "Parasite".

The government said at the time that the 2022 flooding was the heaviest rainfall since Seoul weather records began 115 years ago, blaming climate change for the extreme weather.

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