Dozens die in flooded tunnel and landslides in South Korea

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Dozens die in flooded tunnel and landslides in South Korea

At least 40 people in South Korea have died after a weekend of severe rains caused widespread flooding and landslides across the country.

The disasters have prompted calls from President Yoon Suk Yeol to “overhaul” how the country combats extreme weather arising from climate change.

On Monday, the nation was reeling from a tunnel tragedy where at least 13 people died in their vehicles after becoming trapped by floodwaters.

The full death toll is still unknown.

But on Monday, responders were still working to drain the 685m-long (2,247ft) tunnel in the central city of Cheongju – with divers deployed to retrieve victims.

At least 15 vehicles – including a bus – were trapped in the underpass on Saturday, when floodwater from a nearby burst riverbank poured in.

Nine survivors have been found so far. Meanwhile, families of those missing have waited anxiously for information at a local hospital.

“I have no hope but I can’t leave,” a parent of one of those missing in the tunnel told local news agency Yonhap.

“My heart wrenches thinking how painful it must have been for my son in the cold water.”

Police said they will launch an investigation into the fatal flooding of the underpass.

Elsewhere, at least 19 people died in the mountainous North Gyeongsang region in central South Korea after landslides swept away whole houses.

Some 6,400 residents were evacuated early Saturday after the Goesan Dam in North Chungcheong began to overflow.

A number of low-lying villages near the dam as well as many of the roads connecting them were submerged, leaving some residents trapped in their homes.

Song Du-ho, one of these residents, told the BBC he had never experienced rain like that which fell this weekend.

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 has problems with a bad back, he said.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared when the water was coming in. I could have died,” the 87-year-old said.

South Korea is experiencing one of its most intense summer monsoon seasons on record, with heavy downpours in the past week causing floods, landslides and power cuts across the country.

More torrential rain is expected this week – with showers forecast to Wednesday.