Tuesday marked the 49th day of the summer monsoon, tying the record for South Korea’s longest rainy season since data has been recorded. With no letup in sight for this wet streak, the country is expected to break the record set in 2013.
According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, this year’s rainy season, which started June 24, is forecast to continue until Aug. 16, with heavy rains expected mostly in the capital, Seoul, as well as in Gyeonggi and Gangwon provinces. Jeju Island already broke its own record of 47 days set in 1998, as its monsoon season lasted for 49 days this year until it finally ended July 28.
Experts say the unusually long rainy season is an effect of climate change as global warming caused air in this part of the world to get warmer and hold more precipitation, resulting in extreme downpours. China and Japan have also experienced heavy rains this year that have triggered flooding crises.
In Korea, it has also been one of the deadliest monsoons on record. A total of 50 are dead or missing as of Tuesday. The number of casualties remains the same from a day earlier, with no new reported fatalities.
More than 7,512 people from 4,349 households have seen their homes damaged, and 3,046 are still staying in nearby gymnasiums and community centers.
A total of 20,826 cases of property damage have been reported, with 12,356 of them concerning private property. Around 27,132 hectares of farmland have been inundated, while 5,485 residential buildings were damaged or flooded. Repairs are around 56.1 percent complete, involving 11,692 of the reported cases.
As continued rain pushes up water levels in major rivers, including the Han River in the capital, two major highways and 71 regular motor roads have been closed across Korea. Train services are disrupted on five routes.
The death counts do not include casualties from a boat accident near Uiam Dam in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province, as the case is categorized as a marine accident. Of eight people that were swept underwater after three boats capsized, two were rescued, four were found dead and two others are still missing.
The nationwide rain slowed down Tuesday afternoon, but the national weather agency said downpours will resume Thursday due to an influx of northern wind and continue until Sunday.
President Moon Jae-in urged officials in a meeting Tuesday to ensure all financial support available to expedite disaster recovery. He added that the country must work to digitize and improve disaster countermeasure capabilities under the Digital New Deal program.
“We have consistently improved our safety management system while undergoing numerous disasters, but from the gigantic disaster ignited by climate change, we experienced the largest number of casualties in nine years,” he said.
Since the monsoon season started in late June, 50 people have died or gone missing. It is the highest figure since 2011, when 78 people died or went missing.
To assist the affected regions, officials on Tuesday continued to discuss the possibility of designating more special disaster zones while being more vocal about the need for another supplementary budget.
The government on Friday declared it has designated seven hard-hit areas as special disaster zones, allowing them to receive state aid and other necessary support. Officials are reviewing requests from districts and municipalities to declare designations for more areas around the country.
Ruling Democratic Party chief Lee Hae-chan spoke of the possibility of an extra budget, which would be the fourth this year, but the finance minister publicly voiced his opposition. A high-level policy consultation meeting between the party and the Cabinet is due Wednesday.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org