Heavy rains, flooding leave 22 dead in South Korea
At least 22 people have died and 14 are missing after heavy rain caused flooding and landslides in South Korea, officials said Saturday, with thousands more ordered to evacuate their homes.
South Korea is at the peak of its summer monsoon season and there has been heavy rainfall for the last three days, triggering widespread flooding and landslides, and causing a major dam to overflow.
The interior ministry reported that 22 people had been killed and another 14 were missing in the heavy downpours, mostly buried by landslides or after falling into a flooded reservoir.
The majority of the casualties -- including 16 dead and nine missing -- were from North Gyeongsang province, largely due to massive landslides in the mountainous area that engulfed houses with people inside.
In the most severely affected areas, "entire houses were swept away whole", one emergency responder told the Yonhap News Agency.
More than 6,400 residents in the central county of Goesan were ordered to evacuate early Saturday as the Goesan Dam began overflowing and submerging low-lying villages nearby, the interior ministry said.
Some of the people who have been reported missing were swept away when a river overflowed in North Gyeongsang province, the ministry said.
Rescue workers were battling to reach some 19 cars trapped in a 430-metre-long underground tunnel in Cheongju, North Chungcheong province, according to the interior ministry.
One person was found dead, and nine people were rescued from a bus after flash flooding swept through the tunnel too quickly for people to escape, Yonhap reported.
Water levels remained high and it is unclear how many people were trapped inside their vehicles, they added.
"There were many cars inside the tunnel when the water began coming in and it rose very rapidly," one of the nine survivors who was rescued from the bus in the tunnel told the news agency.
"I don't understand why the tunnel wasn't closed earlier."
Images broadcast on local television showed a torrential stream of water from a nearby river that had burst its banks flooding into the tunnel, as rescue workers struggled to use boats to get to victims inside.
The overall number of deaths is also expected to rise as local government agencies assess the damage nationwide, Yonhap said.
All regular train services across the country were suspended as of 2:00pm (0500 GMT), although KTX high-speed trains remained operational with potential schedule adjustments, according to the Korea Railroad Corporation.