Thursday, July 28, 2011

New anti-disaster system needed in Korea

Kim Rahn in the Korea Times: The landslide that killed 18 and injured a dozen others in southern Seoul has produced calls for the government to come up with a new disaster management system to more effectively counter torrential rain. While experts say reckless development projects were behind multiple landslides in and around Seoul, the death toll from these and floods caused by record rainfall rose to 59 nationwide with 12 others reported missing, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Thursday.

Engineering experts and civic groups claimed that Seocho-gu Office’s park construction on Mt. Umyeon contributed to the disaster, as it carved into mountain slopes to build wooden trekking routes, an artificial lake and a valley on the steep slopes for “residents’ welfare.” “There have been signs of deterioration on the mountain, with some trees being pulled up by typhoon Kompasu last year. But Seoul City and the ward office didn’t set up any preventive measures. The death of 18 people was man-made,” a researcher at the Korea Research Institute on Human Settlements said.

He pointed out not only Umyeon but also other mountains are in a similar situation, with local authorities developing them recklessly under populist welfare policies. It was found that since May the city government has monitored 71 parks and hillside locations considered vulnerable to landslides, but Mt. Umyeon was not included.

Besides measures against thoughtless development, experts call for a paradigm shift in flood control and city planning following recent unusual weather patterns including the largest downpour in a century, which started Tuesday and inundated roads in Gangnam and Gwanghwamun in Seoul....

NASA image of Seoul

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