South Korea floods: Tunnel horror brings home climate fears

An hour away, in the tiny farming village of Edam, 87-year-old Song Du-ho sits on his doorstep with his eyes closed as he tries to process the damage that surrounds him.

Inside his modest one-story home, the floors have been ripped up and his waterlogged belongings are stacked up to the ceiling.

Much of what he owns now litters his garden including broken bookcases and electrical appliances. Two soldiers are breaking them down into pieces so they can dispose of them using a wheelbarrow.

Mr Song jumps up. “Hey! Don’t throw away the metal, I’m going to sell the metal, throw away the rest,” he shouts at them.

The rice and bean farmer’s home was flooded after Saturday’s torrential rain overwhelmed the dam that normally protects his rural village in North Chungcheong province, in South Korea.

The water was up to his waist by the time rescue workers came for him in the middle of the night, along with his wife, who struggles with a bad back.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared when the water was coming in. I could have died,” he says.

Mr Song is dazed. He’s lived in Edam for 40 years, and says he is well acclimatised to South Korea’s monsoon season, which runs from the end of June to the beginning of August.

But he says he has never experienced rain like that which fell this weekend, causing river to swell and land to slide down the dense mountainous terrain, burying homes and killing dozens.

Mr Song knows it will take an awful lot of work to fix his place up, and it is probably beyond his capabilities.

“I’m almost 90,” he says in despair. “What am I to do, where am I to go? We older people die where we live.”

Image caption,

Han Chang Rae washes her mud-caked belongings with water

Next door, 74-year old Han Chang Rae is squatting in the middle of her mud filled courtyard, dumping the contents of her now defunct fridge into bin bags. Even the mounds of kimchi and other pickled vegetables cannot be saved on this baking, humid day.

Her chequered visor prevents the sweat from dripping down her face, as she motors around, barely taking the time to look up. “I have so much to do,” she says in anguish.

In contrast to Mr Song, Ms Han only moved in 15 days ago, and is now binning belongings that never made it out of the box.

She too is bewildered. “I’m 74 and have never experienced this kind of disaster”, she says.

“I don’t know what to feel, I feel nothing, I’m just lucky I didn’t die.”

South Koreans are less used to dealing with the effects of the warming planet, and with more extreme rainfall forecast for Tuesday, danger still looms.

For those in the farming village of Edam, the monsoon season is now no longer a routine part of summer, but something to fear.


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