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Citizens flock to aid rain-hit areas

As the devastating torrential rain came to a lull, citizens and politicians flocked to flood-stricken areas for restoration works.

According to Seoul Volunteer Center, about 3,000 citizen volunteers helped out in eight districts Friday. 
Volunteers help with cleanup efforts of a village damaged by a rain-triggered landslide in southern Seoul on Friday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Volunteers help with cleanup efforts of a village damaged by a rain-triggered landslide in southern Seoul on Friday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

On Wednesday and Thursday, some 1,000 volunteers joined recovery efforts, and nearly 3,000 are to join them on Saturday, with another 3,000 coming to their aid on Sunday. Their five-day number is approaching 10,000.

It will be the largest-ever number of volunteers to register with the center over a period of five days, the center said. “It reflects the citizens’ shock and grief over the disasters which have hit the nation’s capital,” an official of the center said.

Volunteers did work including cleaning up mud and debris, as well as drying furniture items and home appliances.

Mostly until Thursday, veteran volunteers or staff from welfare agencies participated in restoration works, but on Friday, many people from the general public were on the scene.

District offices of Seoul also dispatched their fire engines to Seocho-gu and Gangseo-gu, which suffered the most severe damage.

Local firms, including food companies, conglomerates and state enterprises, have also offered food, beverages and other relief supplies. Others plan to encourage their employees to join cleanup efforts in residential areas.

Politicians also rolled up their sleeves to give a helping hand to rescue crew and volunteers.

The ruling Grand National Party chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, together with the party’s key officials, started the day by shoveling out dirt in the Bangbae-dong village where 18 were killed in a landslide from neighboring Mount Umyeon on Wednesday.

“The top priority is to restore the damaged villages, especially in areas suffering from blackouts,” said Rep. Kim Chung-kwon, the party’s secretary-general. “Detailed damage control measures are to be discussed afterwards.”

Hong also visited the National Police Hospital to pay respects to a policeman who died while trying to rescue a drowning citizen in a stream.

In Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, Supreme Council member Nam Kyung-pil and some 200 party officials set out to cleaning houses and streets.

The main opposition Democratic Party participated in cleanup and humanitarian efforts, while lobbing attacks at the ruling party and Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s administration.

“This week’s flood damage is not just a natural disaster but a man-made one,” said party leader Sohn Hak-kyu, who also visited the Mount Umyeon area and added a hand in the cleanup. “The government should step out and take due responsibility for the consequences of destroying the natural environment.”

While restorative measures made progresses, rain stopped in most parts of the country on Friday.

Torrential rains, however, are expected to come once again next week, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

“Another downpour is expected in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province late on Sunday, and will likely carry on throughout most of the week,” said a KMA official.

“The country’s central region yet remains on the outskirts of a cyclone and thus needs to ready itself to prevent further damages.”

Heavy rain may fall on and off until early or mid-August, according to the KMA.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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