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Rains Pummel South Korea, Killing 38

02:05, 8/8/2011 .. 0 comments .. Link

SEOUL—Torrential rains across much of South Korea on Wednesday created flash floods and landslides that killed at least 38 people, the highest number of casualties in the country's two-month rainy season that already was among the wettest on record.

A landslide early Wednesday in Chuncheon, a mountain village in northeastern Gangwon province, swept away several buildings, including two small hotels where a group of college students was sleeping. Eleven students and two others died in the landslide. More than two dozen other people were injured, several seriously.

Deadly Rains in South Korea
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Jang Seung-yoon/AFP/Getty Images
 
A man walked over mud after a landslide hit a street in southern Seoul Wednesday.
..In Seoul at midmorning, another mountainside gave way and swept mud, trees and other debris over a high-rise apartment complex, killing 10 people and prompting the evacuation of nearly 400 others.

At least five other people were killed in flash floods in Seoul. One of them was the wife of the chairman of Shinsegae Co., a retailer that is one of the nation's largest companies. The woman drowned after becoming trapped by rising water in the basement of the couple's home.

Government officials said another 10 people were killed in various incidents in Gyeonggi province, which surrounds Seoul.

The rainstorm, which began Tuesday afternoon and continued unabated Wednesday, dumped more than 400 millimeters (16 inches) in its first 24 hours. Forecasters expected an additional 250 to 300 millimeters would fall before the system moved eastward Thursday.

The storm system also likely dumped similarly heavy amounts of water on North Korea. But that country's state media, which typically takes several days to report damage from natural disasters, said nothing about it on Wednesday.

 Torrential rain triggers a landslide which kills dozens of people in South Korea as flash floods hit the capital. Video courtesy of Reuters.
.On July 9, 10 South Koreans died in flash floods during another heavy rainstorm.

June and July is rainy season on the Korean peninsula, when it is hit by both tropical storms from the south and other systems moving from the west, and this year's rainfall is among the highest ever.

As of Wednesday morning, Seoul had received 850 millimeters of rain in July, which came on top of 450 millimeters in June. Last year, the city received 366 millimeters in June and July combined, and in 2009, 791 millimeters.

According to data from the Korea Meteorological Administration going back to 1973, the 2009 rainy season holds the record for the heaviest rains, but the 2011 season looks certain to surpass it.



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