NATIONAL

Umyeon landslide victims to seek legal action

By 이선영
  • Published : Jul 31, 2011 - 19:30
  • Updated : Jul 31, 2011 - 21:37
Claim local authorities’ neglect led to disaster which killed 18


Residents of mountainside villages hit by multiple landslides from Mount Umyeon may sue local authorities, claiming that their neglect led to the calamity which claimed 18 lives.

Kwak Chang-ho, who represents tenants of Raemian Art Hill Apartment in Bangbae-dong, in Seoul’s southern ward of Seocho, said Sunday that he will work to form an emergency committee of tenants in order to prepare for legal action.

“We will prove that the landslides could have been prevented, unlike what the Seocho Ward Office and Seoul City Government say,” he said. 
A sign reading “the landslide was a man-made disaster” hangs on the wall of an apartment building in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, on Sunday. (Yonhap News)

Three residents of the apartment died, after torrential rains sent the wall of mud and water from Mount Umyeon into nearby villages. They reached three stories high on some buildings.

He said that the authorities did not take due measures to stave off landslides even though concerns have persistently been raised over the possibility of earth falls near it.

A resident of another landslide-hit village Jeonwon also said that neighbors are talking about filing a damages suit against the authorities.

“I believe that the disaster was predictable to some degree. Public officials did nothing to prevent it, which was the reason why we now suffer damages in human lives and financial values,” she said.

In the village of Jeonwon, six died.

Controversy has flared last week after it was revealed that the Korea Forest Service sent an automatic text message to the Seocho Ward Office, informing the office of the possibility of a landslide and urging it to warn its citizens.

Seocho Ward, where the mountain and landslide-hit villages are located, allegedly ignored the message. It denies receiving any such message.

According to the national forest authority, Mount Umyeon was classified as the highest risk area for a landslide when the heaviest downpour in a century battered Seoul and central regions.

On the day of the landslides, other ward offices of Seoul, including neighboring Gangnam, issued a landslide advisory, or a warning. Seocho issued neither.

A mini-earthfall occurred in Mount Umyeon last September, which should have provided a chance for the ward officials to seek precautionary measures, the residents said.

“Last September, 200 millimeters of rain pummeled the mountain, causing earth, sand and rocks to fall from it. As it is made, in large part, of earth (rather than rocks), the possibility of landslides was high,” an official at Seoul Metropolitan Government said, declining to be named.

By Lee Sun-young  (milaya@heraldcorp.com)