Five bodies of people who have been trapped under a tunnel submerged by heavy rains in central South Korea have been pulled out, firefighting authorities said, taking the death toll from the days of torrential rains that pounded the country to 31.
The five people were found in a bus that has been submerged at a flooded underpass in Cheongju on Saturday after rescue workers began underwater search operations early on Sunday, officials said.
The Ministry of Interior and Safety earlier said that 26 people have died and 10 were missing as of 6 am [local time] as the heavy rains caused landslides and floods across the country, with evacuation covering 7,540 people.
The casualties from the flooded tunnel were not included in the ministry's data as it was not immediately clear how many people and cars were trapped underwater.
"We are focusing on the search operation as there are likely more people there," Seo Jeong-il, head of the West Cheongju fire station, told reporters.
President Yoon Suk-yeol, now on an overseas trip, ordered Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to mobilise all available resources to minimise the casualties, his office said, as more heavy rain was expected on the Korean peninsula on Sunday.
Record breaking floods
South Korea is regularly hit by flooding during the summer monsoon period, but the country is typically well-prepared, and the death toll is usually relatively low.
The country endured record-breaking rains and flooding last year, which left more than 11 people dead.
They included three people who died trapped in a Seoul basement apartment of the kind that became internationally known because of the Oscar-winning Korean film "Parasite".
The government said at the time that the 2022 flooding was the heaviest rainfall since Seoul weather records began 115 years ago, blaming the climate crisis for the extreme weather.