Go to contents

Key question about the Gungpyeong underground tunnel accident

Key question about the Gungpyeong underground tunnel accident

Posted July. 18, 2023 08:15,   

Updated July. 18, 2023 08:15


A key question regarding the accident at the Gungpyeong underground tunnel 2 in Osong-eup, Heungdeok-gu, Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province - the worst underground tunnel flooding disaster in history - is why no one prevented vehicles from entering the underpass as the river rushed in. On Monday, Cheongju City and the police were quick to pass the buck. "According to the Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety, the city of Cheongju is the most responsible," said an expert. "But other administrative agencies will be unable to escape responsibility completely."

First of all, Cheongju City claims that "it was unable to respond because it did not receive any communication from North Chungcheong Province." An official from Cheongju City explained, "We set up a Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters at the city level and organized workers to be on emergency duty at the gu, eup, myeon, and dong district levels." "On the same day, we upgraded the Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters to emergency level 3 at 2:15 A.M.," the official said. "According to the Road Act, North Chungcheong Province has the authority to control the road," the official added. "Cheongju's natural disaster manual states that "residents in inundated and flooded areas should be evacuated, and traffic should be restricted."

North Chungcheong Province acknowledges that it is responsible for road management. The province, which manages the underpass where the tragedy occurred, received a warning from the Geumgang Flood Management Center four hours before the accident. However, it did not ask the police to help control traffic. Nevertheless, the provincial office maintains that Cheongju City and the National Agency for Administrative City Construction (NAACC) have the primary responsibility. "If the NAACC had not lowered the height of the dike around the flooded Miho River, there would have been no problem," said a provincial official. "If you look at the situation at the time of the accident, there was a force majeure aspect as the water suddenly rushed in."

In particular, in a report received at 7:58 a.m., about 40 minutes before the flooding began, the caller said, "I think we should control the Gungpyeong underground tunnel," even specifying the location. However, at the time, the police concentrated their forces in other areas, such as the intersection of Tabyeon, Gangnae-myeon, because of the flooding in those areas. "At the time, we were already fully mobilized due to landslides and road flooding," said a police official. "It was difficult to control additional traffic."

In the case of the fire department, they received a request at 7:51 a.m. on the day of the accident to "come to the scene and take action as the dike was carried away and likely to overflow." However, they arrived at the underpass around 8:03 a.m. and stayed for 26 minutes before leaving the scene at around 8:29 a.m., just before the accident, after relaying the situation to Cheongju City. "We made three attempts to contact Cheongju City Hall and seven attempts to reach Heungdeok-gu Office, but unfortunately, we received no response and had to move on to another emergency," a fire official said.

big@donga.com · woojoo@donga.com