South Korean rescuers yesterday recovered two more bodies near two wrecked Chinese fishing boats, bringing the confirmed death toll from a powerful typhoon to 17.
Typhoon Bolaven — the strongest to hit South Korea in almost a decade — left a trail of death and damage in southwestern and south-central regions of the country.
It drove two Chinese fishing ships aground early on Tuesday off the southern island of Jeju, sparking a dramatic rescue operation.
Coast guards wearing wetsuits struggled through high waves and pulled 12 people to safety. As of yesterday afternoon, six people swam ashore, seven bodies had been recovered and eight were still missing.
“Two more bodies were retrieved today near the wreckage. We’re still combing the area,” Ko Chang-keon, spokesman of the Seogwipo Coast Guard, said in Jeju.
Dozens of divers were involved in the ongoing search. The coastguard said in a statement it would make the “utmost efforts” to account for all those missing.
Most other deaths were caused by wind gusts that toppled walls or roofs or blew victims off their feet. The South Korean Ministry of Public Administration and Security said the confirmed death toll, including the seven Chinese, was 17.
Typhoon alerts covering most of the country were lifted as ferries and flights returned to normal and schools reopened. However, South Korea was on watch for another typhoon, Tembin.
Bolaven moved on to North Korea, where state media reported damaged crops and power cuts around the western city of Haeju. About 300 roadside trees along the Pyongyang-Kaesong highway were toppled, halting traffic.
North Korea’s official news agency said there was likely to be more damage after strong winds and heavy rain hit western regions.
Bolaven crossed the Yalu border river into China early yesterday.
In South Korea, the typhoon was the strongest since 2003 in terms of wind speed. The maximum speed of 214kph was recorded at Mount Mudeung in the southwestern city of Gwangju.
Power cuts of five minutes or longer hit nearly 2 million homes, a record in the country, the public administration ministry said. The storm toppled nearly 8,000 trees and damaged 42 ships or boats and 35 houses. A total of 6,418 hectares of farmland was damaged.
Typhoon Tembin, located about 350km northeast of Taipei early yesterday, was approaching South Korea at a speed of 2km an hour.