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Flood Victims Seek Compensation Amounting to Hundreds of Billions of Won against Government

Flood Victims Seek Compensation Amounting to Hundreds of Billions of Won against Government

Posted August. 25, 2002 22:17,   


River Nakdong, lifeline of Youngnam, runs 525km through the south region. Recent rainstorms earlier this month, however, decimated residential areas and farmlands located along side the river. Although the authorities say that the flooding was force of the Mother Nature, victims argue that negligence is a main culprit.

They are protesting against the man-made disaster through rallies and demonstrations, while preparing lawsuits amounting to hundreds of billions of won. The police authorities already began to investigate whether there were shady constructions, and the Audit and Inspection Agency also plans to launch its own investigation.

▽Man-made Disaster

“Damages to their property in large part resulted from the collapse of banks and malfunction of drainage systems,” fumed residents. Lee Gwang-sup, a 61-year-old farmer whose family has lived in Halim-myeon, one of the hardest-hit areas, for decades, said “We asked the local government to reinforce embankments and drainage facilities for Hwapo Creek during a local county meeting in March 2000.” They pointed out that the poor pumping facilities in the village failed to send out huge amount of swelling waters in Hwapo Creek

An association of victims formed in Haman county says. “The construction company is responsible for the damages because the embankments were crumbling while under construction.” They also charge that the company even filled the pumping pipelines with industrial wastes.

“Shady construction explains why the banks failed to hold back waters,” said residents in Hapcheon county. “We reported fissures in the banks before the collapse, but the authorities did nothing.”

▽Poor Management of Facilities

Fewer banks and pumping facilities have been reinforced in Gyeongnam area despite its exposure to Nakdong River. “It has been more than 10 years since we first started to demand rebuilding embankments,” residents pointed out the lack of commitment by the local government.

When Kimhae City asked the Gyeongnam government for a plan to rebuild Hwapo Creek in November 1997, it rejected the request citing tight budget. Then the municipal and provincial authorities exchanged documents for the last 5 years, without taking necessary steps.

The drainage system in Hallim-myeon is capable of pumping out only about 31 tons of water per second, although it must drain at least 100 tons per second to work properly. “Pumping facilities alongside the Nakdong River are all antiquated, without generators and power lines in place. They were all bound to stop in case of blackout,” said Lee Deuk-man, a 44-year-old farmer.

They also pointed out that there are too many agencies responsible for management of embankments and facilities such as local authorities, Land Management Agency and Agriculture Infrastructure Corporation, posing a hurdle to speedy actions.

“This kind of disaster was already predicted when farmland, residential and factory areas began to be built in most of Nakdong River swamps that serve as water pockets,” said an official from an environmental organization for Masan and Changwon area. “What the government is required to do is to review its river management policy.”

“We demand that the government take preventive steps from a long-term perspective as well as offer due compensation for our losses,” said flood victims.