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Southwestern areas evacuated after rivers overflow, bank collapses

The Seomjin River is on the verge of overflowing in Gurye, South Jeolla Province, on Aug. 8, 2020, in this photo provided by the Gurye county office. (Yonhap)
The Seomjin River is on the verge of overflowing in Gurye, South Jeolla Province, on Aug. 8, 2020, in this photo provided by the Gurye county office. (Yonhap)

Major rivers and streams in the southwestern region of South Korea overflowed or came close to flooding in some places Saturday due to torrential rains, forcing local residents to evacuate and disrupting transportation.

Heavy rain also triggered a landslide in North Jeolla Province, killing two people, according to the authorities.

Two days of downpours caused the flooding of the Seomjin River in Gokseong and Gurye counties, both located in South Jeolla Province.    

A stretch of the river's bank in Namwon, adjacent to Gurye, collapsed at around 12:50 p.m.

The local office of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said an estimated damage scope reaches 50-100 meters. It's still hard to gain exact information due to the inaccessibility of the site, officials added.

As vast swathes of farmland and houses were inundated, local authorities said earlier they have ordered residents in affected areas to evacuate immediately.

Around 300 people left villages near the bank, where at least 70 houses submerged.

The water level of the Yeongsan River, another key river in the province, approached the threshold, as a stream in Gwangju, 270 kilometers south of Seoul, ran over some banks. River authorities released dam water, leaving dozens of villagers temporarily isolated.

According to local authorities, a landslide occurred at around 4:42 p.m. in the county of Jangsu, North Jeolla Province, and buried one house.

Two people -- a 59-year-old man and his wife -- were found dead, they said, though it is not known exactly how many people were buried. Officials earlier said that around two to three were presumed missing.

The Korea Forest Service elevated the landslide warning level to "serious," the highest in its four-tier alert system, in 16 provinces and metropolitan cities nationwide except for Jeju Island.

Due to heavy rain, 12 flights at Gwangju International Airport were cancelled, as parts of the runway were inundated, according to the authorities.

The rainfall also put some villages in the western part of South Gyeongsang Province under water and hampered a number of train operations. All KTX bullet train services between Iksan, North Jeolla Province, and Yeoju, South Jeolla Province, came to a halt.

The Korea Meteorological Administration forecast more rains in Gwangju and the Jeolla provincial areas through Sunday morning. It said the central province of Chungcheong and the eastern province of Gangwon are bracing for heavy rains again as well amid the possibility that a typhoon will march toward the peninsula later this week.

The government held an interagency meeting, presided over by Minister of the Interior and Safety Chin Young, to check damages and discuss ways to prevent additional damage. (Yonhap)