Seoul, July 28: A blast of heavy rain sent landslides barrelling through South Korea's capital and a northern town on Wednesday, killing at least 32 people, including 10 college students doing volunteer work.
The students died as mud and debris engulfed them as they slept in a resort cabin in Chuncheon, about 110 km northeast of Seoul, said an official with the town's fire station.
A married couple and a convenience store owner also died.
About 500 officials and residents worked to rescue people trapped in the mud and wreckage.
Twenty-four people were injured and several buildings destroyed, officials said.
Witnesses interviewed on television likened the sound of the landslide to a massive explosion or a screaming freight train and described the screaming they heard as buildings were carried away by rivers of mud.
In southern Seoul, 16 people died when mud crashed through residences at the foot of a mountain, an emergency official said.
Three others also died after a stream just south of Seoul flooded, he said, and 10 people were reported missing throughout the country.
The heavy rain also left about 620 people homeless and flooded 720 houses and about 100 vehicles throughout South Korea, the National Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.
South Korea has been pummelled with strong rain this week.
About 400 mm rain fell in Seoul in just 17 hours starting on Tuesday afternoon.
More than 250 mm rain fell on Chuncheon in the last two days.
Weather officials said another 10 inches could fall in northern South Korea, including Seoul, through Friday.
Fast-moving muddy water filled streets in Seoul on Wednesday, with people scrambling to the roofs of their partially submerged cars.
Water filled some subway stations and spewed from sewers.
TV images showed people and rescue teams on streets using shovels, brooms and a wooden board in an effort to keep more rain from coming in.
Cars were restricted from entering the lower part of a two-level bridge in the centre of Seoul because it was submerged.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency issued a traffic emergency, mobilising more officers to deal with the problems caused by the heavy rain.
Seoul shut down portions of two major city highways stretching along each side of the main Han River because of high water levels, a disaster control official, said.
A dam located just east of Seoul was discharging 16,400 tons of water per second, an official at the government's Han River Flood Control Office, said.
The dam discharged about thousand tons per second days before the recent downpours began.
People in Seoul, where smartphones are ubiquitous, posted dozens of photos on Twitter and Facebook showing inundated streets and mud-covered cars.
Many complained online that Seoul had neglected to prepare for the downpours. AP