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Heavy rains lash S. Korea, leaving 5 dead, 8 missing

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Aug. 2 (UPI) — SEOUL, South Korea — Heavy rains triggered a string of mudslides and flooding in central South Korea on Sunday, leaving at least five people dead and eight others missing, and forcing the suspension of train services and road closures.

A landslide engulfed a chicken farm in the Gyeonggi Province city of Anseong, about 43 south of Seoul, around 7:10 a.m. and killed a 58-year-old man. Rescue workers found his body buried in the mud at 9:18 a.m. after two hours of searching.

In Chungju, some 65 km southeast of Seoul, a firefighter went missing after being swept away in strong currents. The 29-year-old, identified by his surname Song, was standing next to a stream to check swollen waters when the ground suddenly collapsed and caused him to fall into the stream around 7:30 a.m.

A search operation is under way, officials said.

Also in Chungju, a 56-year-old woman was killed after a landslide enveloped a cowshed and sparked a gas explosion around 10:30 a.m.

A separate landslide in Chungju left another 76-year-old woman dead around 8 a.m., with one more man, aged 59, found dead near a fishing spot in Eumseong, North Chungcheong, at around 11 a.m. He reportedly drowned in a flooded stream, according to officials.

A 62-year-old resident of Eumseong was also swept away in torrents and went missing at 8:30 a.m.

In Jecheon, North Chungcheong Province, a 42-year-old camper was found buried in mudslides early Sunday morning. The camper was rushed to a hospital but was pronounced dead.

In nearby Danyang, three people — a woman, her daughter and son-in-law — went missing after being engulfed by torrents. Officials said the couple were trying to save their mother being swept away by a flash flood while working in a farming field.

Two more people were reported missing in North Chungcheong after a landslide hit fishing grounds in Chungju and rapid torrents capsized a canoe in a flooded stream in the nearby county of Goesan, according to officials.

Torrential rain of up to 60 millimeters per hour soaked northern parts of North Chungcheong Province overnight, including Chungju, and adjacent areas that include Cheongju, Jecheon and the county of Danyang.

More than 80 houses in Chungju were flooded, forcing some 120 residents to evacuate early Sunday morning.

Train services on three train lines running in the central and eastern parts of the country — the Chungbuk, Taebaek and Jungang lines — were disrupted due to mudslides and flooding.

The Chungbuk Line runs from the central city of Sejong to Jecheon, the Taebak Line from Jecheon to the Gangwon Province city of Taebaek and the Jungang Line from Seoul to the southeastern city of Gyeongju.

Mudslides also caused a number of roads in the regions to close.

The national railway operator, the Korea Railroad Corp. advised travelers in the affected regions to opt for other means of transportation as it may take considerable time to fix the train services.

Evacuation alerts were also issued for nearly 5,000 residents of the county of Eumseong, North Chungcheong, due to flooding risks involving a reservoir and streams there.

Some 200 residents of a village in Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, evacuated their houses submerged in the rain.

The country’s capital area, including cities in Gyeonggi Province encircling Seoul, also reported flooded houses and cases of property damage after heavy rains of around 70 mm per hour hit the areas.

In Seoul, Jamsu Bridge, linking the capital’s southern and northern parts over the Han River, was closed to pedestrians, as heavy rains pushed up the river’s water level to over 5.5 meters.

Vehicle traffic on the bridge will be blocked if the water level rises further, officials said.

The weather agency retained its heavy rain warnings for many parts of North Chungcheong, including Cheongju, Chungju and Jecheon, as well as other central regions.

As of Sunday afternoon, the entire Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, as well as some parts of Gangwon Province, were also placed under heavy rain alerts, which are issued when precipitation of 90 mm or more is forecast for the duration of three hours.

According to the agency, the central regions may continue to receive heavy rains throughout the day till Tuesday as the country comes under the influence of Typhoon Hagupit.

With heavy downpours expected to continue, the government put the country on the highest alert for disasters caused by rain, as of 3 p.m.

The government also instructed officials of relevant agencies to mobilize all possible resources to ensure the safety of citizens and advised people to stay clear of danger-prone areas, including low-lying regions.

From Sunday night till Monday night, the regions may experience downpours of up to 50 mm to 80 mm per hour as Typhoon Hagupit places the country’s central regions under the influence of massive amounts of water vapor.

North Chungcheong Province, in particular, may receive as much as 200 mm more rain in total between Sunday afternoon and Monday, a regional branch of the weather agency noted. In some parts of the province’s northern regions, precipitation could go up to a combined 300 mm during the period, the agency said, urging extra caution.

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