Typhoon hits South Korea, preparations minimize casualties

Typhoon hits South Korea, preparations minimize casualties

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The most powerful typhoon to hit South Korea in years killed at least three people, poured a meter (3 feet) of rain, destroyed roads and brought down power lines on Tuesday. The death toll could have been higher were it not for active evacuations and school closures, officials said.

The public is also more aware of the hurricane and its associated risks. Typhoon Hinnamnoor hit just weeks after heavy rains around the capital Seoul caused flooding that killed at least 14 people.

As Hinnamnor approached, government officials put the nation on high alert for several days, warning of possible historic destruction and taking action to save lives.

After grazing on the resort island of Jeju and hitting the mainland near the port city of Busan, Hinnamnor weakened as it was swept into the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The South Korean meteorological agency said Hinnamnor was over the open sea 280 kilometers (173 miles) northeast of Ulleung Island when winds eased to 115 kilometers (71 miles) per hour on Tuesday afternoon. The agency said the storm is expected to transition into a tropical storm overnight as it moves northeast between Russia and the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

However, damage remains severe in the southern city of Pohang, where two people were found dead and at least seven more missing after the hurricane flooded roads and buildings, caused landslides and flooded a shopping mall.

Cars with broken windows and open trunks littered the roads like rubbish. An entire two-story pool villa was uprooted from the ground and washed away in a flash flood. Troops were deployed to assist in rescue and recovery efforts, moving in armored vehicles through the streets, which turned into chocolate-colored rivers.

Firefighters moved through the flooded areas in rubber boats, rescuing people and their pets. Vendors rushed to salvage furniture and other items at the famous Guryeongpo open-air market, where workers used backhoes to clear away huge piles of rubbish.

Rain and flooding washed away the foundations of bridges and highways, which were often broken into pieces or blocked by fallen trees and power poles. Factory buildings tilted, and a shipping container was blown off and landed over cars in a parking lot.

“I woke up at 5 am due to heavy rain and got very worried because the water rose right up to my doorway,” said Kim Sung Chan, a Pohang resident, in an interview with JTBC. “At 7 a.m., the water was even above the hip and those who had parked their cars on the streets were in a panic because their cars had sunk. . Other residents drew water from their homes.”

The storm has dropped more than 105 centimeters (41 inches) of rain in central Jeju since Sunday, where winds reached 155 km/h (96 mph). In the southern and eastern regions of the mainland, damage was also inflicted: signs and roofs were knocked down, trees and road signs were knocked down, and roads were destroyed.

In Pohang, a woman in her 70s died after being swept away by a flash flood, and another woman in her 60s was found dead in a flooded basement car park where five people were still being searched.

On Tuesday night, rescuers managed to pull out two people who were trapped. President Yoon Seok Yeol offered congratulations after rescuing the first survivor, calling it a “miracle.”

Rescuers were unable to find another man who called for help before he went missing, presumably washed away by a flash flood.

In the nearby city of Gyeongju, an 80-year-old woman died after her home was buried by a landslide. In Ulsan, another southern city, a 25-year-old man went missing after falling into a rain-swollen stream, according to the Ministry of Interior and Security.

Also in Pohang, firefighters extinguished a blaze that damaged at least three facilities at a large steel plant owned by POSCO. A presidential spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity at the preliminary briefing, said officials were investigating the cause of the fires.

Local firefighters said the blaze destroyed an electrical building and damaged a separate office building and a coke plant before being extinguished.

The security ministry said about 3,200 of the 4,500 people who were forced to evacuate returned home on Tuesday afternoon. More than 80 houses, buildings and factories were flooded or destroyed, hundreds of roads, bridges and structures were damaged.

More than 600 schools have been closed or switched to online classes. The workers were able to restore power to 78,890 of the 89,180 households that were left without electricity.

In North Korea, state media reported on a “universal effort” to minimize damage from floods and landslides. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong-un issued “detailed targets” at government meetings to improve the country’s disaster response capacity, but did not elaborate on plans.

North Korea suffered severe damage from heavy rains and floods in 2020 that destroyed buildings, roads and crops, hurting the country’s already weakened economy.

About the photo: Waves made landfall in Pohang, South Korea on Tuesday, September 6, 2022. Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate in South Korea as Typhoon Hinnamnor hit the southern parts of the country on Tuesday, causing heavy rain and winds. which destroyed trees and roads and left more than 20,000 homes without power. (Kim Hyun Tai/Yonghap via AP)

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