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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 11)

All News 07:05 August 11, 2020

Minimize flood damages

Time to take bolder measures to prevent disasters

Heavy rainfall is wreaking havoc on the country in this persisting monsoon season, causing severe loss of life and property damage. The season which began June 24 will likely continue through the week, setting a new record over 2013's monsoon which lasted 49 days.

According to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters under the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, the death toll from the torrential rain had risen to 38 with 12 missing as of Monday, the highest since 2011 when 78 people were listed as dead or missing.

In addition to the loss of life, the rainfall surpassing 100 mm per hour has caused the bursting of riverbanks and flooding of roads and farmlands nationwide. North and South Jeolla provinces, in particular, were hardest hit with the rupturing of the banks of the Seomjin River. The country also been on alert over the approach of Typhoon Jangmi, which means "rose" in Korean. Alerts were issued for the southern areas of Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces Monday evening due to the typhoon, which is expected to bring strong winds and more heavy rain.

The central and local governments should come up with thorough measures to cope with the ongoing disaster. They need to focus on rescue and rehabilitation in the regions hit hardest. The administration designated seven cities and counties, including Anseong in Gyeonggi Province and Cheorwon in Gangwon Province, as special disaster zones.

The authorities need to adopt follow-up measures and designate more severely hit areas as disaster zones to ensure a speedy recovery nationwide.

The record precipitation can largely be attributed to the effects of global climate change. But we may be able to take precautionary steps for any disasters with more precise weather forecasting and warning systems. In this sense, the poor performance by the weather agency is disappointing. The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) predicted record heat this summer, which has proven to be wrong.

It forecast temperatures in July would be more than 1 degree Centigrade higher than the past average. But the mercury remained about 2 degrees lower.

It also forecast heavy rain for the morning of July 5 in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province. But rain fell only in Goseong and Cheorwon in Gangwon Province. The KMA has been under mounting criticism for its repeated failures in weather forecasting. It has belatedly explained the recent heavy rainfall was caused by the sudden formation of a heat wave around the North Pole.

The KMA says it is increasingly difficult to make accurate weather forecasts because of increasingly unusual weather phenomena amid rapid climate change. The agency's explanation is understandable given the growing seriousness of such change.

But despite these circumstances, the agency needs to do its utmost to provide the people with precise weather forecasts so that they can take pre-emptive measures against any possible natural disasters. The KMA has been spending taxpayers' money to purchase state-of-the-art systems and equipment.

It should set up a better weather forecast system to ensure public safety. The authorities should also double down on taking precautionary measures to better protect people's lives and property.

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