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Seoul to launch real-time flood warning system for drivers this July

May 16, 2024 - 16:23 By Lee Jung-joo
Environment Minister Han Wha-jin speaks during a press conference on the ministry's flood response plans for this summer’s heavy rain season on Thursday. (Ministry of Environment)

The Ministry of Environment is set to unveil a new flood warning system tailored for drivers this July after last summer's deadly incident of underground tunnel flooding.

"For the first time this year, navigation guidance will be available to help drivers drive safely in low-lying and other hazardous areas when entering flood warning areas or near the discharge points of the 37 dams managed by the Ministry of the Environment," Environment Minister Han Wha-jin said during a press briefing in Seoul.

However, the navigation system does not inform detour routes, so drivers will have to be mindful of where they are driving and avoid underpasses and low-lying areas.

The introduction of the flood warning system for drivers comes after a deadly incident in July last year when an underpass in Osong-eup, Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, flooded due to torrential rain, leaving 14 dead and nine injured.

Han announced Thursday a set of flood safety mechanisms that would operate on-site to prevent flooding damage during the upcoming summer season’s heavy rain periods.

Han affirmed that the ministry's key goal is to "ensure flood-related information is easily accessible to the public."

As part of the efforts, “location-specific messages and navigation guidance services will also be provided to residents in possible flood-prone areas to also guide them to safety,” Han said during a press briefing.

“Those who receive the message will be able to click a link, which will allow users to check whether they are in a flood-prone area through a map. They will also be able to receive additional guidance on what to do and where to evacuate.”

In the event of an emergency, an alert will be automatically sent to relevant response organizations such as local governments, fire and police officials via fax, text message and through the new voice message system to ensure proper on-site responses.

Security cameras installed along rivers in South Korea will also alert relevant organizations of possible flooding to make sure proper on-site measures take place.

Between 2013 and 2022, South Korea saw up to 122 deaths and disappearances due to heavy rain, with such numbers significantly increasing from 2019. It also recorded up to 3 trillion won ($2 billion) in property damage over the same period, according to data presented in July 2023 by the Ministry of Interior and Safety.

During the press conference, the Environment Ministry also announced that the government will begin to use artificial intelligence technology to forecast floods.

At 673 gauging stations installed nationwide, an AI-based monitoring system will measure the rivers’ water levels at one-minute intervals and report possible dangerous situations -- such as rising water levels -- before they occur to related organizations.

“We will prepare for possible floods and heavy rain this year by preparing on-site measures before this summer’s heavy rain season,” added Han.

“We will cooperate with local governments and related organizations to prioritize public safety and to ensure that no damage is done due to heavy rain this summer.”

Meanwhile, in April, the Korea Meteorological Administration announced a three-month precipitation outlook, indicating a 50 percent chance of near-normal precipitation levels and a 30 percent chance of above-normal levels for June. For July, the forecast included a 40 percent chance of near-normal precipitation levels and a 30 percent chance of above-normal precipitation.