July 27, 2011 / 2:41 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 3-Landslides, flash floods hit S.Korea, 32 dead

(Updates death toll, new details)

By Yonghak Jo

CHUNCHEON, South Korea, July 27 (Reuters) - Torrential rain battered the South Korean capital Seoul and surrounding regions on Wednesday, causing dozens of landslides and flash floods that killed at least 32 people, the emergency services said.

In the worst single accident, a landslide crashed into a mountain resort at Chuncheon, east of Seoul, destroying three small hotels and killing at least 13 people.

A resident reported hearing what sounded like a train.

“Then I heard someone shouting ‘help me’. So I went out to see, and I saw a landslide had swept all over the area,” she said.

Another landslide on the outskirts of Seoul buried dozens of houses and killed at least 10 residents, local media reported, adding that one villager was missing.

A tributary of the Han River running through Gonjiam, about 50 km (30 miles) southeast of Seoul, had overflowed and killed five residents, Yonhap news agency reported.

Wild weather has battered the central region of the country since late Tuesday, causing rivers to burst their banks, disrupting travel and triggering power outages.

More than 60,000 homes were still without electricity on Wednesday evening, Yonhap said.

The share price of insurers fell on fears that damage costs would run into tens of millions of dollars.

At Chuncheon, about 100 km (60 miles) east of Seoul, soldiers were drafted in to help with the rescue operation after a wall of mud flattened the small hotels just after midnight.

More than 40 holidaymakers, mostly university students, were sleeping in the inns when the landslide hit.

“We were asleep and suddenly I heard a big sound, and then the ceiling fell down,” Lee Beon-seok, a student, told a television station.

Officials said 26 people were injured.

About 400 mm (16 inches) of rain fell on Seoul in a period of 24 hours, and the weather bureau said the heavy rain would last until Friday.

There was no immediate reports of damage to crops, and flights and shipping were not affected. (Reporting by Seoul bureau; Writing by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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