Seoul under water as record rainfall kills eight in South Korea’s ‘Parasite’ cellars

Seoul floods - Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Seoul floods – Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Residents of Seoul have been pictured wading through waist-deep water after record highs hit South Korea, killing at least four people living in basement apartments immortalized in the film Parasite.

A further four people have been confirmed dead as a result of the floods which have cut off electricity, caused landslides and left roads and subways under water.

The southern part of the capital received more than 100 mm of rain per hour late on Monday, with some parts of the city receiving 141.5 mm, the heaviest rainfall in decades, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA).

The accumulated rainfall in Seoul since midnight Monday was 451mm as of 2pm Tuesday, with more forecast.

On Tuesday, Yoon Suk-yeol, South Korea’s president, visited a semi-basement apartment where three family members died the night before after floodwaters filled the space.

Seoul floods - Ahn Jung-won/Yonhap via AP

Seoul floods – Ahn Jung-won/Yonhap via AP

The dangers of such underground apartments, called banjiha, were famously depicted in a flood scene in the 2020 Oscar-winning film Parasite.

Yoon told area residents he would try to ensure their lives returned to normal as soon as possible, and he instructed officials to look into measures to better ensure residential safety, according to a statement from his office.

By early Tuesday, at least five people had died in Seoul and three others in nearby Gyeonggi province, the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters said.

Four, including three family members, had died after drowning in flooded buildings, one was believed to have been electrocuted, another person was found under the wreckage of a bus stop, and the other two died in a landslide, it said.

At least nine people were injured, while seven were missing.

Seoul floods - YONHAP/AFP via Getty Images

Seoul floods – YONHAP/AFP via Getty Images

In the glitzy, dense Gangnam district, some buildings and shops were flooded and without power, while cars, buses and subway stations were submerged, leaving people stranded.

Lim Na-kyung, a 31-year-old office worker, recounted her fears on Monday night, saying the situation reminded her of a scene from the 1997 film Titanic.

“I had to keep going higher and higher because the building was going under water at a fast pace… I couldn’t believe that I was trapped in a building with 40 other people in the middle of the Gangnam district,” said the mother of two, who eventually had to spend the night at a pilates center on the fourth floor.

Seoul floods - YONHAP NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS

Seoul floods – YONHAP NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS

Data showed that at least 765 facilities had been damaged. Around 52 highways and roads are blocked.

About 391 people were displaced in the greater Seoul area, most of whom had to stay in local schools and gyms. Another 399 had temporarily moved to community centers and schools, according to the data.

Headquarters raised the crisis alert to the highest level and asked organizations to adjust their working hours.

Seoul floods - REUTERS/Yonhap News Agency

Seoul floods – REUTERS/Yonhap News Agency

The KMA issued warnings of heavy rain over the capital and metropolitan area of ​​26 million as well as parts of Gangwon and Chungcheong provinces.

KMA expects large amounts of rainfall for the central part of the country to continue until at least Wednesday.

While South Korea often experiences heavy rains in the summer, “such a sharp increase in rainfall and frequent downpours cannot be explained without the major trend of climate change,” a KMA official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. “This phenomenon is occurring more frequently due to climate change which has resulted in a prolonged summer.”

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