Emergency rescue and recovery efforts were underway Wednesday in areas that saw a respite amid days of heavy downpours, with the weather agency predicting more rain to come through next week.
The death toll from the five-day rain streak, which started Saturday and poured as much as 670 millimeters in Seoul and Gyeonggi, South Chungcheong, North Chungcheong and Gangwon provinces, stood at 15, with 11 others still missing, according to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters.
Soyang River Dam, a key flood defense line for Seoul, opened its floodgates for first time in three years as continued rain pushed the water level past its limit.
Water levels of the Imjin River, north of Seoul, were rising, prompting authorities to issue alerts. North Korea appears to have released water from Hwang River Dam, north of the river, making a direct impact on levels in the south, officials said.
In an emergency response meeting, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun ordered to quickly review designating Gyeonggi, North Chungcheong and South Chungcheong provinces as special disaster areas. The designation would allow the swift provision of government support funds to the affected regions.
As of 2 p.m., no new major destruction or injuries were reported Wednesday, as rain eased in Seoul and many parts of the country.
The Korea Meteorological Administration, however, expects the rainy days to continue through next week, barring southern provinces. Precipitation amounts could vary widely by region, it added.
By 6 a.m. Wednesday, torrential rains in the capital and Gyeonggi, North Chungcheong, South Chungcheong and Gangwon provinces have forced 1,587 people from 983 households to evacuate and reported 4,281 facility damage cases.
A total of 1,273 residential buildings have been flooded or swamped, while 705 barns and storage structures have been damaged. More than 6,500 hectares of farmland have been flooded. There were 936 reports of damage to motorways, with 84 to sewage pipes and 43 for railroads. More than 300,000 livestock animals have been killed as well.
The Korea Water Resources Corp. said it was opening up the Soyang River Dam from 3 p.m. to midnight Wednesday, as the water level had surpassed its flood control limit of 190.3 meters.
Water levels of the Han River, which cuts through Seoul, were expected to be directly impacted. Seoul authorities were making necessary preparations, limiting passage of more low-lying roads near the river within the city.
Across the country, a total of 48,833 firefighters, civil workers, police officers and volunteers have been at work, along with 5,779 water pumps, excavators and dump trucks being mobilized.
Firefighters helped in the emergency evacuation of 1,024 people in affected areas. Officials blocked passage of 251 trails at nine national parks and restricted access to 16 underground passage and 93 parking lots.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org