SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) – More rain is forecast for areas of South Korea as Seoul tried to drain flooded train stations and repair cut power lines after one of the worst storms in more than a century hit the capital, killing at least nine and leaving about six others missing.
President Yoon Suk-yeol, in a meeting on Wednesday (Aug 10), apologised to the nation for “inconveniences” caused by rainfall that the weather agency said was some of the heaviest in at least 115 years.
A day earlier, he asked authorities to recalibrate disaster management plans by taking into account the effects of global warming. “We can’t just keep calling these extreme weather situations unusual,” he said.
The storm that started on Monday has dumped 525 millimetres of rain in parts of Seoul, the Meteorological Agency said, forecasting another 100mm through to Thursday.
At least 570 people lost their homes and 2,670 buildings were flooded, the interior ministry said. Transport authorities were able to restore rail services after the storm flooded train tracks and sent cascades of water into several subway stations.
The flooding has provided one of the biggest domestic challenges for Mr Yoon since he took office in May. He has seen his support drop to some of the lowest levels of any of the country’s presidents at the same point of their term in office due to a series of policy stumbles.
The flooding that turned streets into rivers and parking lots into ponds has also exposed vulnerabilities in the South Korean capital to severe precipitation events that data from climate scientists indicates have become more prevalent due to global warming.
Mr Yoon has been put on the defensive about his response so far to the flooding, with a new term coined by an opposition lawmaker that soon made its way to social media of “phone-trol tower”, a play on words for Mr Yoon issuing commands by phone from his home instead of relocating to a government control tower for disaster management.
“Presidential office” and “natural disaster” were trending on Twitter in
South Korea on Wednesday with many people criticising Mr Yoon’s decision to move the presidential office away from the long-used residence and administrative facility known as the Blue House, which has operational centres for crisis management.
Mr Yoon on Tuesday visited an apartment below street level that filled with water, killing a family of three trapped inside. Authorities were also searching for a 15-year-old girl who was on her way back home on Tuesday before she was swept away in raging waters.