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Tourists Ignore Warnings After NK Water Release Announced

Tourists Ignore Warnings After NK Water Release Announced

Posted July. 20, 2010 16:32,   


Three fishing vacationers were spotted Sunday evening at a forest across the shores of the Imjin River. Yeoncheon County officials crossed the river to speak to them.

When the officials said they aired warnings throughout the afternoon after hearing North Korea was to release water from a dam, one vacationer said, “We were about to leave,” scrambling to pack his gear.

The county office and Korea Water Resources Corp. began airing warnings around 3:30 p.m. Park Gwang-ha, chief of the county’s disaster management and security division, said, “They were hiding in the forest where they could hardly be seen at that time, and apparently planned to continue fishing into the night (even after hearing the warnings).”

Ten months have passed since six people drowned around the Imjin River after the North released water from the Hwanggang Dam without warning.

On Sept. 6 last year, five campers died under Imjin Bridge in the county and another person died while fishing near Biryong Bridge downstream after the North released the water.

Authorities beefed up safety around the river but people going there for leisure seem to be careless. After the North notified the South of its plan to release water from a dam Sunday, the county and the water company scrambled to evacuate vacationers from the area.

Park said, “Even if the North opens floodgates at Hwanggang Dam, about seven to eight hours are needed for water to reach the area. Water levels were also not poised to suddenly rise to a dangerous level. But we immediately prepared for rescue operations because of last year’s tragic disaster at the Imjin River.”

Many vacationers who went to the river over the weekend were reluctant to leave, however, despite news reports and warnings. County officials urged more than 10 people in a family group under Buksam Bridge in Gunnam-myeon to evacuate at 4:20 p.m. Sunday, but the group said they would leave at 6 p.m.

They showed no sign of leaving around 6:40 p.m., so six police officers went to the scene. Only then did the vacationers begin packing their swimming equipment and gear, with one complaining, “We can’t even engage in leisure activities due to North Korea.”

The county evacuated 330 vacationers around the Imjin River Sunday -- 66 around the shores of Gunnam-myeon; 14 in the township of Baekhak-myeon; 170 in Misan-myeon; and 80 in Jangnam-myeon.

County officials began overnight patrols to prepare for accidents and continued surveillance in groups Monday, when rain kept most vacationers away.

Many vacationers responded angrily to the county’s warnings, with one saying, “We would’ve left if the water level rose,” and another saying, “I’m very familiar with streams in this area.”