Asia
11:24 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Deadly Weather Batters South Korea, Philippines

The death toll from storms that have lashed South Korea and the Philippines rose Wednesday as torrential rains triggered landslides and flooding.

South Korean officials said at least 32 people, including 10 college students, were killed when mudslides barreled through the capital city of Seoul and the northern town of Chuncheon.

The rains — said to be the heaviest in a century — have pummeled the country for days. About 15 inches fell in the capital in just 17 hours starting Tuesday afternoon. More than 10 inches fell on Chuncheon in the last two days. Weather officials said another 10 inches could fall in northern regions, including Seoul, through Friday.

The Han River, which runs through Seoul, was so swollen that only the tops of trees were visible along some sections. Highways were shut down, and cars were seen driving backward trying to trying to get away from swollen waterways.

About 620 people have been left homeless by the rains that flooded 720 houses and about 100 vehicles throughout South Korea, the National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

Hundreds of officials and residents raced to rescue people trapped after the landslide hit Chuncheon, about 68 miles northeast of the Seoul. The students, who were in town for a retreat, died as mud and debris engulfed them as they slept in a resort cabin, said Byun In-soo of the town's fire station. A married couple and a convenience store owner also were killed.

Twenty-four people were injured and several buildings destroyed, officials said. Witnesses interviewed on television likened the sound of the landslide to a massive explosion or a screaming freight train and described the screaming they heard as buildings were carried away by rivers of mud.

In the Philippines, the death toll rose to at least 25 Wednesday amid rain and flooding from a tropical storm that has swamped the homes of about a half million people. At least 31 people were missing.

Officials said many of those who perished were fishermen who didn't heed warnings. During a news briefing, national disaster coordinator Benito Ramos also said 27 people were injured when their boat capsized in the choppy waters off Iloilo province.

The rains from Tropical Storm Nock-ten have caused flooding as high as 10 feet in some provincial areas, making roads impassable. In other areas, residents waded through waist-high waters. Ramos said emergency workers have had trouble trying to bring relief goods to inundated villagers.

Floodwaters inundated much of eastern Albay province, sending residents to seek shelter in churches and village halls, according to Gov. Joey Salceda.

Many domestic flights were canceled, and about 1,600 ferry passengers were stranded.

Philippine forecasters expect the storm to head out to the South China Sea by Thursday night.

With reporting from Doualy Xaykaothao in Seoul, South Korea, and Simone Orendain in Manila, Philippines. Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.