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18 killed in Korea landslides

SEOUL, South Korea, July 27 (Bernama) -- The heaviest downpours in a century pounded Seoul and its surrounding areas on Tuesday and Wednesday, triggering multiple landslides, urban traffic chaos, power outages and flooded streets, roads and residential areas, reports Yonhap news agency.

A landslide caused by torrential rain swept away a pension and four residential buildings near Chuncheon, about 85 kilometres east of Seoul, early Wednesday morning, killing 13 people and injuring 26 others, emergency rescue officials said.

In a separate landslide disaster, about 20 houses in a remote village on the southern tip of Seoul were buried under mud swept from a nearby mountain around 9 a.m., claiming the lives of five residents, officials said, adding that one villager went missing.

"I was sleeping on the second floor of the pension when I heard the thundering sound of a landslide. The stairs collapsed, and I was buried under mud," said one college student, who was among seven rescued by firefighters.

More than two are still missing in the landslide, which occurred just after midnight near the Soyang River Dam resort, said the officials.

The 13 killed in the landslide that hit the pension include 10 students from Incheon's Inha University who were participating in a four-day volunteer work programme at a nearby elementary school, according to the officials.

The three other victims are believed to be a local resident and a couple in their 40s.

More than 500 firefighters and police have been sent to the area to speed up rescue efforts for the two missing people, who are believed to be trapped inside the collapsed buildings.

The Chuncheon area had received more than 262.5mm of rain as of 10 a.m.

The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) said downpours tallying more than 110mm of rain per hour, a record volume witnessed once or twice in a century, were recorded in the country's central and southern areas, as well as in the Seoul metropolitan area.

The precipitation in Seoul between Tuesday and early Wednesday morning exceeded 400mm, the KMA said, adding heavy rain is expected through early Thursday morning.

Officials at the Seoul Metropolitan Government said flooding was reported in streets, subway stations, underground walkways and residential districts throughout the capital city, while several landslides occurred in the city's hilly areas.

A number of flooded main roads in downtown and southern Seoul were closed to traffic, while a motorway linking Seoul to southern Gyeonggi Province was closed due to a landslide.

Downpours were particularly severe in the areas south of the Han River, where a large number of intersections and neighbourhoods were submerged in knee-deep water.

The Gwanghwan Intersection at the heart of Seoul was also inundated with water.

"Flooding is caused by a combination of several factors, including topography and streams. Basically, however, the precipitation volume is the biggest factor," said an official at the city hall. "In Seoul's Gwanak district (south of the river), for instance, the heaviest rainfall in a century caused casualties and property damage, reducing the room for the authorities to cope with."

About 60 households in Seoul's Socho district were isolated due to a landslide.

The Seoul government said 76 people in 36 households have been sent to a refugee camp in the capital, as 710 houses were reported submerged.

Two people were reported missing in the Bulgwang stream in northwestern Seoul, while another two went missing near a vacation home in Gapyeong, east of Seoul.

In Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, where 360mm of rain were recorded over the past two days, three people were reported missing in flooded streams and rivers.


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