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Heavy downpour kills one at construction site

Heavy rainfall on Wednesday morning in Seoul and the surrounding Gyeonggi Province isolated three workers at a rainwater pump construction site, leaving one dead and two missing, with torrential downpours expected to continue through early Thursday morning. 

Yangcheon Fire Station received a report at 8:24 a.m. that three workers -- two from Korea and one from Myanmar -- at the rainwater drainage facility under construction in western Seoul had been isolated.

One worker, surnamed Koo, was rescued about two hours later, but died at a hospital. As of 6 p.m., 169 rescue workers and 41 vehicles had been dispatched to search for the remaining two workers thought to be trapped in the facility. Seven pumps were mobilized to drain rainwater from the facility.
Two helmets believed to have belonged to the missing workers were discovered at the scene.

The exact cause of the accident is under investigation.

An official in charge of the construction was quoted as saying that the accident resulted from an unexpectedly heavy downpour. The workers went ahead with the operation despite the weather forecast, which critics say resulted in the “manmade” disaster.

The three reportedly came to the water pipe located 40 meters underground for a routine inspection. The pipe automatically opens and closes when it reaches the 60 percent point of the facility. However, they could not avoid the rainwater flowing quickly into the facility.

There was no safety equipment in the tunnel.

“The first thing we should do is to rescue the two people who have not yet been rescued,” Interior and Safety Minister Chin Young said at the accident scene.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who accompanied Chin, also delivered his condolences to the families of the deceased and the missing, pledging an emergency inspection at other construction sites.

Seoul and some cities in Gyeonggi Province, Gangwon Province and Chungcheong Province saw heavy rainfall of 30 millimeters per hour, accompanied by thunder and lightning, during the morning commute hours, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

Torrential downpours were expected to continue in Seoul, its surrounding area and Gangwon Province through Thursday morning, according to the agency. Heat waves were expected to follow the rainfall.

By Ock Hyun-ju (