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Monsoon season begins, but disaster should never be repeated

Monsoon season begins, but disaster should never be repeated

Posted June. 26, 2023 07:54,   

Updated June. 26, 2023 07:54


The monsoon season began Sunday when a heavy rain warning was issued for Jeju. The rain clouds that dumped 100 millimeters of rain in Jeju and the southern coastal regions are expected to expand into the central region Monday, dumping torrential rain across the country.

A record amount of flooding is forecasted this summer due to Super El Niño. Last summer's torrential downpours in the Seoul metropolitan region and heavy rains brought by Typhoon Hinnamnor caused massive loss of life and property in the southern region. However, despite the government's promise to take a proactive and systematic response to flooding, there are many areas where short-term measures to prevent flooding have not been finalized even after the rainy season.

Last summer in Seoul, four people were killed when the heaviest rainfall flooded their semi-subterranean homes in 115 years. The Seoul metropolitan government announced a massive program to relocate residents from semi-subterranean homes. Still, only 1 percent of the city's 210,000 households have moved out of their semi-subterranean homes. About 15,500 households are required to install both a water stop and a backflow preventer due to the high risk of flooding, but only 40 percent have done so. This is either because they can't get in touch with their tenants or they don't have the consent of their landlords, who are worried about a fall in their property values. While trying its best to persuade the tenants and landlords, the city should at least put into place mobile water stops immediately.

Blocked storm drains were a major cause of flooding last year. The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced that it had cleaned all 540,000 storm drains in the city by spending 22.5 billion won (about 17.1 million U.S. dollars). However, many of them are still clogged with garbage, especially in the Gangnam Station and Shillim-dong neighborhoods that suffered heavy damage last year. In Busan and Daejeon, two metropolitan cities with a high risk of flooding, less than 10 percent of storm drains have been inspected. Typhoon Hinnnamnor flooded Pohang's Naengcheon River, killing seven people in the underground parking lot of a nearby apartment building, but work to repair the river only began late last month and will take at least two years. Are the authorities simply praying for good luck? The authorities need to hurry up and finish the temporary restoration so that the water drains well and should be prepared to quickly send out flood forecasts and disaster warning texts to give people time to evacuate.

It is doubtful that long-term measures will be implemented appropriately when considering the situation wherein short-term measures are postponed due to budget and complaints. The construction of the giant rainwater tunnels at Gwanghwamun and Gangnam Stations in Seoul and the underground drainage ditches in the Dorimcheon basin is set to begin no sooner than this November. As for the proposed construction of an upstream dam to prevent flooding of residential neighborhoods and a steel industrial complex downstream of Pohang's Naengcheon River, even feasibility studies have not started yet. How can we prepare for the era of climate disasters with a shoddy disaster administration that announces massive measures to placate angry public opinion in the wake of a disaster before it instantly falls apart when the seasons change.