Seoul to remove semi-basement homes after deaths from heavy rain

Seoul, Aug 12 The local government of Seoul will not grant permits to build houses in basements or semi-basements after record rains in recent days left at least thirteen dead, according to official figures released this Friday.

The plan was announced after three members of a family, two adults in their 40s and a minor under 12, were killed Monday night when they were trapped in their semi-basement apartment in the Gwanak district, south of the capital.

This type of housing, which received international attention due to the Oscar-winning film “Parasite” (Bong Joon-ho, 2019), constituted 5% or about 200,000 of households in Seoul in 2020, according to data released by the agency South Korea’s Yonhap.

The capital said it will begin consultations with the government to review the Construction Law so that the use of basements or semi-basements for residential purposes is totally prohibited, although it plans to give a grace period of up to 20 years for the owners of this type of dwellings are destined for non-residential uses.

The heaviest rains in the last 80 years have left thirteen dead and six missing in Seoul and surrounding regions, as well as flooding nearly 4,000 homes and a thousand displaced people, local authorities reported Friday.

Several parts of southern Seoul, the port city of Incheon and Gyeonggi province, which surrounds the capital, received heavy rain of more than 100 millimeters per hour during Monday night, reaching 141 millimeters in the district of Dongjak, south of Seoul, in the heaviest downpour since 1942.

A total of 3,775 houses and buildings were flooded, most of them in Seoul, while more than 980 people, also from the capital, were displaced and housed in local schools and gyms in recent days.

South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo also ordered measures to designate areas affected by the heavy rains as a special disaster zone, which would mean that they could receive financial aid for recovery efforts.

The South Korean Meteorological Agency (KMA) has lifted the downpour warning in the Seoul area and Incheon, but has maintained the heavy rain warning for the central region of the country, where rainfall could reach between 30 and 40 millimeters per hour. EFE


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