South Korea’s monsoon season began this week and has already notched its first weather-related fatality, as forecasters warn that this year’s rains could be among the heaviest in decades and government officials vow to be prepared.
On Tuesday in Hampyeong, a county in the southwest where rain had been falling almost three inches an hour, the victim, a woman in her late 60s, was reported missing by a neighbor. Her body was found Thursday morning; the local fire department said she had most likely been swept away by a flooded stream.
Monsoon season, when much of Korea’s annual rainfall arrives within a few intense weeks, typically runs from mid- or late June through early August, causing flooding, damage to buildings and casualties. Some regions get more than 30 inches of rain during the summer months, according to the national weather agency.
The national weather forecast predicts at least some rain in each week of July, with precipitation levels expected to equal or exceed those of last year, when the country saw its heaviest rainfall in eight decades, which killed at least nine people.
Hundreds of citizens were evacuated from their homes last summer. One family drowned in their semi-basement home in Seoul.
President Yoon Suk Yeol visited the scene of that disaster the following day, vowing to take measures to prevent such deaths in the future. The Seoul city government announced that it would stop providing permits for basement or semi-basement units in new residential construction.
“We can no longer call such abnormal weather abnormal,” Mr. Yoon said at an emergency meeting the day after the storm last year, calling for the need to upgrade systems to monitor water levels.
To brace for this year’s weather, the government has installed flood-wall barriers, sandbags and drainage pumps in low-lying areas, and has warned citizens to avoid taking underground roadways.
The ministry of interior and safety has also vowed to inspect basement apartments and parking lots where people could become trapped.
By Thursday, Seoul, the capital, had seen at least two inches of rain, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. More precipitation was in the forecast.