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Living in a Tent for 6 Days. “We Are Afraid of Night.”

Living in a Tent for 6 Days. “We Are Afraid of Night.”

Posted September. 06, 2002 23:03,   


It rained again and blew strong wind in the flooded area in Kangwon from the afternoon on the 5th.

The flood victims tied to calm down their uneasy mind and laid down their tired bodies in strange houses of the neighbors, tents near the riverside, classrooms with full of concrete smells.

In Hajong-Ri, Miro-Myun, Samchuck City, Kangwon at around 6pm. The terrible sight of the flood, which left only 5 ~ 6 houses that looked all right out of 50 some total households, was disappearing to darkness.

It has been six days without electricity, communication, and running water since the flooding of the Osip Chon River, which runs between 1st and 2nd sections of Hajong, on the 31st. The Miro Bridge that connected to Miro-Myun was also collapsed, so they could receive some relief supplies by helicopters on the 4th.

Mr. and Mrs. Kim, Gu-Hyun (62) and Kim, Soon-Young (56), who pitched a tent near the Osip Chon River, already went to bed. They did not even have a candle to light. They escaped from their house at night the river flooded with just their clothes on. Their house was collapsed and there was not a single tree left in their 1,600-pyung wide vineyard, which was waiting to be harvest for the first time.

Their tent with a straw mat on sand and a comforter on top of that was swaying in the wind.

“If wind blows stronger, then we should leave here,” the husband said and the wife helped him, “we need a container box over anything.”

They have tried to sleep in their neighbors’ house, but on the 4th, when their bodies as well as minds got uncomfortable, their policeman son, who lives in Seoul, visited them with a tent.

“I stopped him to come back in Chusok. There is no place to stop, nothing to eat, and…” Mrs. Kim, who couldn’t continue saying showed a bitter smile, “But I feel like rich today maybe because I ate some rice balls that volunteers brought.”

At around 7pm when the whole town was covered with darkness, a cigarette light, which Mr. Lee, Eun-Soon smoked, blinked across the river.

Mud filled Mr. Lee’s house up to his waist. Mr. and Mrs. Lee and Park, Myung-Hee (51) made a temporary bed with a veneer on top of 8 blocks under the roof. They stayed there for six days merely covered from rain but received winds.

“The senior citizens of the town walked all the way to the Samchok City Hall and asked, ‘we were starved to death,’ and the mayor came to town in his helicopter and said, ‘I did not know that you were isolated.’

Mr. Lee who said he drank because he was upset sighed, “They made a temporary bridge with ten’s of H-beams to do a road expansion construction, and those beams blocked the water way.” His wife Mrs. Park shook her head and said, “We drank fountain water in the mountain,” and “it is like an abandoned town.”

Although it was little better than towns in mountains, where even electricity was not provided, the victims in the shelter could not shake out their uneasiness, either.

At around 11pm in a classroom of the Mosan Elementary School in Janghyun-Dong, Gangreung City, about ten old ladies in their 60’s and 70’s could not go to sleep and watched TV.

Mrs. Gwon, Oh-Ja (74) said, “I lost my death garment that I bought last year for 1.5 million won,” and she missed pictures of her grandparents over anything.

Mrs. Lee, Hwa-Sun, who was watching outside the window, was about to cry and said, “I worry about my oldest son who is staying inside a van,” and “I am hard to bear not to take out my daughter-in-law’s wedding jewelry.”

That night, with storms and dropped temperature, the victims, who were sweating to rebuild their community, had to spend a sleepless night with worries about yet another flooding threat after covering their household items with vinyl and piled up sand bags in front of their houses.

sunghyun@donga.com mindy@donga.com