Floods Swamp S. Korea; 124 Dead or Missing

From Associated Press

The South Korean capital's main river broke through an embankment today after 15 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, causing flooding and landslides that left 124 people dead or missing and 250,000 people homeless.

Scores of villages west of Seoul disappeared under a wall of Han River water unleashed when a 100-yard section of river embankment collapsed. Thousands of people awakened by the thundering water raced to rooftops and higher ground.

Thousands were ferried to safety in a massive rescue effort involving 4,000 soldiers, dozens of helicopters and hundreds of boats. American troops joined the Koreans in picking up stranded victims.

"It happened so suddenly, I couldn't get anything from my house," said a woman who is eight months pregnant. "I'm in a shelter and I cannot find my family."

President Roh Tae Woo said the relief efforts in this city of nearly 10 million are like "fighting a war."

"No amount of words can describe this situation," police Lt. Kim Sung-ho said from the scene. "It's hellish."

The rainfall is Korea's heaviest in 70 years.

The Han River threatened more destruction, and workers struggled to strengthen a portion of its bank in eastern Seoul near the Olympic facilities.

Late today, the Choongang Hospital and its 900 patients in southern Seoul were still surrounded by floodwaters. About 50 patients were transferred to a nearby hospital by boat, news reports said.

Officials said floodwaters had submerged 83 townships, farms and rice paddies west of Seoul in the Koyang area, home to about 300,000 people.

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