(ATTN: RECASTS headline; ADDS more details in 6th para, photos)
SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Friday declared seven cities and counties in central South Korea devastated by recent torrential rains as special disaster zones, the presidential office said, making them eligible for state support in their disaster recovery efforts.
Moon declared the seven areas -- Anseong of Gyeonggi Province; Cheorwon of Gangwon Province; Chungju, Jecheon and Eumseong of North Chungcheong Province; and Cheonan and Asan of South Chungcheong Province -- as special disaster zones, the office announced, saying they suffered particularly heavy damage from recent downpours.
Unseasonably heavy rains and flooding in the nation's central regions over the past week have left 17 people dead and 10 others missing, displaced some 2,500 people and destroyed about 6,200 buildings, according to government data.
"The central and provincial governments have speedily selected the seven areas with extraordinarily serious flood damage as special disaster zones," Yoon Jae-kwan, deputy spokesperson of the presidential office, said in a media briefing.
"The government plans to conduct further on-site inspections to additionally declare other areas that meet certain conditions as the special disaster zones," Yoon said.
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition parties including the United Future Party (UFP) hailed the government's decision, hoping the decision will help flood victims in the seven special disaster zones get their lives back on track.
According to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, the government has singled out the seven special disaster zones after conducting emergency on-site damage inspection for three days, far shorter than the usual two-week period, in order to swiftly expand state support for the disaster-battered areas.
The declaration of special disaster zones will allow the central government to spend state money to support 50 to 80 percent of the expenditures needed for damage recovery.
The move will also permit residents who suffered flood damage to receive state support in livelihood costs and reductions in utility bills, health insurance premiums and other public charges, as well as exemptions from reserve forces training and other military duties.
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