South Korea’s Yoon calls for disaster response overhaul over extreme weather

SEOUL, July 18 (Reuters) – South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Tuesday called for an overhaul of the country’s disaster response system to better cope with climate change-induced crises, after days of torrential rain killed dozens of people in the country.

More than 40 people have lost their lives and nine remain missing in flooding and landslides after less than a week of heavy rains, mostly in the country’s central region. The toll includes 14 who died when floodwater trapped them in an underpass in the city of Cheongju.

“Climate change is causing extreme natural disasters,” Yoon told a cabinet meeting televised live. “We cannot respond to this unprecedented abnormal weather the way we have been doing until now,” Yoon said.

He said South Korea should have a digital system to simulate and monitor precipitation forecasts that will enable officials to take preemptive safety measures.

“This is what I have stressed since last year,” he said, referring to the flooding in August when the heaviest rain in 115 years hit Seoul, paralysing commercial areas and inundating low-lying neighbourhoods in the affluent Gangnam district.

The latest deaths have cast doubt on South Korea’s work to prepare for extreme weather driven by climate change, as floods have claimed dozens of lives during recent rainy seasons despite the vow for better preparation.

Experts say the government has failed to set aside the funds needed to fulfil its pledge and instead has remained too focused on recovery.

The heavy downpours in South Korea coincided with extreme heat elsewhere around the globe and as the U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, resumed top-level diplomacy to discuss joint efforts to combat global warming.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said on Monday it was “imperative that China and the United States make real progress” in the four months before U.N.-sponsored climate talks begin in Dubai.

Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Editing by Ed Davies and Sonali Paul

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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