South Korea – Over 30 Dead, Many Missing After Floods and Landslides in 4 Provinces

Torrential downpours in South Korea have resulted in devastating flooding and landslides, causing the death of over 30 individuals nationwide and leaving nine others missing, according to authorities.

Landslide in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. Photo: National Fire Agency South Korea

South Korea’s Ministry of the Interior and Safety reported 37 people have died and 9 are missing after a period of heavy rain from 09 July 2023. Fatalities occurred in Sejong (1), North Chungcheong (13), South Chungcheong (4) and North Gyeongsang (19) Provinces. Eight people are missing in North Gyeongsang Province and one person remains missing in Busan.

Tragically, the death toll includes at least nine people who died after a bus became trapped in a flooded underground tunnel located in Osong, Cheongju City, capital of North Chungcheong Province. The underground roadway was flooded due to the overflow of a nearby river after an embankment collapsed due to the rising water levels caused by the relentless rain. The number of casualties from the underpass flooding is expected to rise further as rescue operations continue to search for vehicles and individuals believed to be still trapped inside the tunnel.

In a statement of 16 July, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said, “We are mobilizing all manpower and resources of the military, police, fire department, and local governments regarding the rescue operation of the flooding accident in Cheongju City, and we will ensure that the rescue operation is completed as soon as possible.”

Elsewhere in the country, as many as 19 fatalities were reported in the province of North Gyeongsang, primarily due to landslides and housing collapses in Yecheon County. Eight people remain missing in the county. A massive search and rescue operation is underway in the area involving 2,400 rescue personnel from fire departments, police and military.

Authorities also reported four people have died in South Chungcheong Province and one in Sejong City. Around 35 people have sustained injuries nationwide as a result of the recent downpours. One person remains unaccounted for in the southern port city of Busan.

The heavy rains have caused significant damage to agricultural, roads and over 400 buildings. Almost 9,000 people from 14 cities and provinces have evacuated their homes in recent days, including 2,581 individuals in North Chungcheong Province. As of 16 July, 5,000 of that total remained displaced due to continued risks.

Landslide in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea. Photo: National Fire Agency South Korea