Tragedy Strikes as Bodies of Eight Found in Submerged Tunnel in South Korea

South Korea Death Toll Rises to 35 as Bodies of Eight People Retrieved from Submerged Tunnel

CHEONGJU, South Korea – The bodies of eight people trapped in a tunnel submerged by heavy rain in central South Korea were recovered on Sunday, bringing the death toll from days of torrential downpours to 35, according to authorities and local media. The incident occurred in Cheongju City after a levee of a nearby river was destroyed by the downpours on Saturday. CCTV footage showed vehicles driving through the tunnel as muddy water rushed in, submerging their wheels.

Seo Jeong-il, head of the west Cheongju fire station, stated that approximately 15 vehicles, including a bus, were estimated to have been submerged in the underpass. “We are focusing on the search operation as there’s likely more people there,” said Seo. The search and rescue efforts are being intensified to wrap up today. The death toll in the tunnel currently stands at nine, including one body retrieved on Saturday.

In light of the recent disaster, President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is currently on an overseas trip, convened a video-linked response meeting. He ordered the Prime Minister to mobilize all available resources to minimize casualties and urged the weather agency to release forecasts promptly, as more heavy rain is expected in the following days.

The Korea Meteorological Administration warned that the central and southern parts of the country could receive an additional 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain by Tuesday. While heavy rains are common in South Korea during the summer, there has been a significant increase in torrential rains in recent years.

Last year, Seoul experienced severe floods caused by the heaviest downpours in 115 years. Subsequently, South Korea promised to enhance preparedness against torrential rains. However, one survivor from the submerged tunnel criticized the government, stating that access to the underpass should have been restricted when flooding was expected.

With evacuation orders covering 7,866 people across the country, the Ministry of Interior and Safety reported 10 individuals missing as of 11 a.m. (0200 GMT). However, the data from the ministry does not include the number of people trapped in the flooded tunnel.

As a result of the heavy rain and ensuing safety concerns, Korea Railroad Corp has halted all slow trains and some bullet trains since Saturday. The track flooding, landslides, and falling rocks pose significant risks to railway operations.

In conclusion, South Korea is grappling with the aftermath of heavy rains that have led to severe flooding and landslides. The death toll has risen to 35, with eight bodies recovered from a submerged tunnel in Cheongju City. The government has been urged to take preemptive measures against extreme weather conditions, and the public has called for improved safety protocols to prevent similar incidents in the future. As the country braces for further heavy rain, President Yoon Suk Yeol has mobilized resources to minimize casualties and has emphasized the need for timely weather forecasts.