Typhoon Hinnamnor Batters South Korea, Forcing Thousands to Flee

SEOUL, South Korea — The most powerful typhoon to hit South Korea in years battered its southern region Tuesday, dumping almost a meter (3 feet) of rain, destroying roads and felling power lines, leaving 20,000 homes without electricity as thousands of people fled to safer ground.

Typhoon Hinnamnor made landfall on the resort island Jeju in the morning. It was heading northeast towards the sea at winds up to 144 km (89 miles per hour). After the suspension of ferry service in Japan and eastern China in recent days, it is expected to be closer to east China in the coming week.

South Korean officials alerted the country to possible damages caused by flooding, landslides, and tsunamis unleashed in Hinnamnor. This was just weeks after flooding devastated the area around Seoul that claimed the lives of at least fourteen people.

Prime Minister Han Duk-soo called for evacuations in areas vulnerable to flooding, saying Hinnamnor could end up being a “historically strong typhoon that we never experienced before.”

Since Sunday’s storm, the storm has dumped over 94 cm (37 in) of rain on central Jeju. Winds reached 155 km/h (96 mph) during this time.

A 25-year-old man was missing after falling into a rain-swollen stream in the southern city of Ulsan, according to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety, which didn’t immediately report more casualties. Fires were reported at a major steel plant operated by POSCO in the southern city of Pohang, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether they were caused by the storm.

According to the Safety Ministry, more than 3400 residents of southern areas were evacuated due to safety fears. Officials were also advising 14,000 people to leave. A minimum of five houses and buildings were damaged or destroyed by floodwaters, as well as scores upon roads.

Over 600 schools were shut down or made available online. Over 250 flights were cancelled and 70 ferry lines were lost. More than 66,000 boats had to be evacuated from the ports. At 6 AM, workers restored electricity to 2 795 out of 20 334 affected households.

A South Korean presidential official, who spoke on condition of anonymity during a background briefing, said officials were investigating the cause of the fires at POSCO’s Pohang plant, where firefighters were working to extinguish flames that damaged at least three facilities at the complex.

Lim Yoonsook from the North Gyeongsang provincial fire department said that the fires had destroyed a structure housing electrical equipment. They were still burning through an office building. Workers were however close to extinguishing the smaller fire in a cokes factory.

In North Korea, state media reported “all-out efforts” to minimize damage from flooding and landslides. The Korean Central News Agency reported leader Kim Jong Un during government meetings had issued unspecified “detailed tasks” to improve the country’s disaster response capacity but it didn’t elaborate on the plans.

North Korea sustained serious damage from heavy rains and floods in 2020 that destroyed buildings, roads and crops, shocking the country’s already-crippled economy.

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