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Deadly underpass flooding ‘could have been prevented,’ official inquiry finds

At least 36 in charge of response sought in formal investigation

By Kim Arin

Published : July 28, 2023 - 17:22

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Bang Moon-kyu, Minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, announces the findings from the inquiry into the underpass flooding in a press briefing on Friday. (Yonhap) Bang Moon-kyu, Minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, announces the findings from the inquiry into the underpass flooding in a press briefing on Friday. (Yonhap)

An official inquiry concluded on Friday that the flooding in an underpass that led to 14 deaths earlier this month was a preventable tragedy.

The Office for Government Policy Coordination in a press briefing said its 10-day inquiry found a failure to respond to the flooding across the police and fire departments as well as the respective municipal offices.

The underpass in Osong, a city near the government complex in North Chungcheong Province, was completely submerged in the morning of July 15 about five minutes after the record downpour broke down a nearby river’s banks.

The inquiry by the government policy coordination office found that the river’s banks wrecked by the rain were temporary installments that did not meet safety standards. While weather authorities had warned of heavy rains in advance, neither municipal offices of Osong nor North Chungcheong Province took measures to plan or monitor possible flood threats.

No police were dispatched to the site despite at least two 112 calls having been made about an hour and a half and 42 minutes before the flooding, respectively. The inquiry found that the police then entered the calls into the internal system as if dispatches had been made.

A day before the flooding, the fire department received a complaint that the river’s banks were appearing to collapse but took no measures, the inquiry also found.

Wrapping up the inquiry, the policy coordination office said it was seeking to investigate at least 36 people at the police and other public agencies over their response to the flooding in the underpass.

The policy coordination office said it planned on conducting an inspection of disaster preparedness and response system across municipalities.