Korea waking to the reality of increasingly subtropical climate
The heaviest rainfall ever recorded delugued Seoul and its surrounding area last week, leaving 62 dead and 9 still missing as of Sunday and sparking criticism of the Korean government over its anti-disaster preparations. The same extreme waether caused additional misery in Japan's central Honshu region, already devestated by the March 11 earthquake.
The MLTMA's new guidelines are focused on the improvement of water drainage and embankments across the country, among others measures. The ministry will strengthen assessment of environmental impact from development projects in the planning stage.
"We will put the brakes on reckless development projects on mountains and hills," Yoo Byeong-kwon, a MLTMA official, told the Korea Herald. "Mountains and hills should be kept as a kind of wall to ward off possible landslides and other disasters."
Ironically, construction of an ecological theme park Mount Umyeon in southern Seoul has been blamed for the most deadly landslide. "Excessive digging and construction works in recent days to build the park have destroyed trees and weakened the soil ground," a professor at Kwangdong University, told the Korea Herald.
Heavy rain started falling on Thursday afternoon and 301.5 mm fell on Seuol on Wednesday, breaking the previous record for a single day in July, with the rainfall continuing through the weekend.
The Korea Meteorological Administration also has come under fire for inaccurate weather forecasts. The agency predicted 50 to 150 milliliters of rain on Wednesday and Thursday, assuring commuters of traffic as usual in Seoul and its adjacent regions.
The flooding left some motorists stranded on top of their cars. According to the Chosun Illbo, Seoul became "paralyzed" by the rainfall, with some roads completely underwater:
"The rain submerged some subway lines, main highways and low-lying parts of the capital, creating hellish conditions for commuters. Parts of Gwanghwamun in downtown Seoul were submerged in waist-deep water, causing traffic to come to a halt. Police blocked some 20 areas in the capital, trapping millions of commuters in their vehicles and causing many to report late to work."