(2nd LD) Torrential rains leave 35 dead, more than 10 missing

Flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains have killed 35 people nationwide and left more than 10 people missing, while thousands have evacuated their homes due to rain damage, authorities said Sunday.

The Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters said 33 people have reportedly been killed in the aftermath of the heavy rains that have pounded the country since last week, while 10 others remained missing as of 11 a.m.

The death toll includes seven bodies authorities recovered from a bus trapped in a flooded underground tunnel in the central town of Osong.

The 685-meter-long underground roadway was flooded in Osong, North Chungcheong Province, the previous day when a nearby river overflowed after an embankment was brought down by rising water levels due to heavy rain.

As of late Sunday morning, casualties from the underpass flooding stood at nine and are expected to rise further as a rescue operation continues for 15 vehicles and several people believed to be trapped inside the tunnel.

Later on Sunday, rescuers additionally pulled one more body out of the flooded tunnel, while one more downpour-related death was reported in North Gyeongsang Province.

Most fatalities were reported in the southeastern province of North Gyeongsang, where 17 people died largely due to landslides and housing collapses, and nine others remained missing.

One more person remained missing in Busan, the office said. Twenty-two people have also been injured nationwide as a result of the recent downpours.

As of 11 a.m., 7,866 people from 13 cities and provinces had evacuated their homes, including 2,362 in North Chungcheong Province, and of them, 6,182 have not returned home yet due to safety concerns, authorities also said.

Nearly 15,120 hectares of farmland, mostly rice paddies, have been inundated, the size of 21,000 football fields combined.

A total of 273 public and private property damage cases have been reported, including 32 cases of destroyed or swept-away public roads, 49 cases of collapsed river embankments and 33 cases of flooded homes.

Heavy rains have also left 216 roads closed, and of them, 10 public ones remained out of service as of 11 a.m.

All train operations have been suspended, although KTX bullet trains on some sections resumed operations.

Downpours have also left 20 national parks across the country closed..

As of 11 a.m., heavy rain warnings were in place in southern inland areas of Gangwon Province, the Chungcheong provinces, southern regions and Jeju Island. Coastal regions of South Jeolla and South Gyeongsang provinces have been forecast to experience heavy rains of up to 50 millimeters per hour.

The weather agency said the central Chungcheong provinces and the southern Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces may experience up to 300 mm of additional rain through Tuesday.

Landslide warnings across the nation, except on Jeju Island, have also been escalated to the highest level of "grave."

Prime Minister Han Duck-soo vowed prompt government efforts to rescue those who remain missing.

"The government will speedily step up operations to search and rescue those missing," Han said at a government response meeting, instructing officials to make the utmost efforts to ensure the safety of the people.

During the meeting, the defense ministry reported that 472 military personnel and 69 pieces of government equipment have been deployed to help with the disaster response operations.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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