South Korea death toll from destructive rainstorm rises to 40 as workers search for survivors

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Heavy downpours battered South Korea on a ninth day Monday as rescuers struggled to search for survivors amid landslides, warped homes and flooded vehicles in the most severe storm. destructive to hit the country this year.

At least 40 people have died, 34 others are injured and more than 10,000 people have had to evacuate their homes since July 9, when heavy rains began to hit the country. The most severe damage was concentrated in the central and southern regions of South Korea.

In the central city of Cheongju, hundreds of rescuers, including divers, continued to search for survivors in a muddy tunnel where around 15 vehicles, including a bus, were trapped in a flash flood that may have filled the passage in a few minutes Saturday evening.

The government has deployed nearly 900 rescuers to the tunnel, who have so far recovered 13 bodies and rescued nine people who have been treated for injuries. It was not immediately clear how many people were in the submerged cars.

By Monday afternoon, rescuers had pumped out most of the water from the tunnel and were searching the site on foot, a day after using dinghies to move and transport bodies on stretchers.

Hundreds of rescue workers, soldiers and police were also searching for survivors in the southeastern town of Yechon, where at least nine people had died and eight others were missing after landslides destroyed homes and distorted roads, the county office said.

Photos from the scene showed firefighters and police using search dogs while waddling through knee-deep mud and debris from destroyed homes.

Nearly 200 homes and about 150 roads were damaged or destroyed across the country, while 28,607 people were without power in the past few days, the Interior and Security Ministry said in a report.

The Korea Meteorological Administration has maintained heavy rain warnings over large swaths of the country. Torrential rains were pouring up to 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) per hour in parts of the south. The bureau said central and southern regions could still receive up to 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) of additional rain through Tuesday.

Returning from a trip to Europe and Ukraine, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol held an emergency government meeting. He called on officials to designate the hardest hit areas as special disaster areas to help channel more financial and logistical aid to relief efforts.

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