Twelve people were killed and 10 are missing after a strong typhoon pounded South Korea yesterday, uprooting trees, sinking ships and cutting power to almost 200,000 homes.
By late afternoon, Typhoon Bolaven — the strongest to hit the country in almost a decade — was moving toward North Korea, which is still struggling to recover from deadly floods earlier in the summer.
Hundreds of flights in the South were grounded, ferry services were suspended and schools in Seoul and several other areas were closed.
Bolaven left a trail of death and destruction in southwestern and south-central regions of the country, although officials said it had been little felt in central parts of the capital Seoul.
Off the southern island of Jeju, the storm drove two Chinese fishing ships aground early yesterday, sparking a dramatic rescue operation.
Coast guards wearing wetsuits struggled through high waves and then used a line-launcher to fire ropes to one ship, a coast guard spokesman said. The other boat broke apart.
Rescuers saved 12 people while six swam ashore, but 10 crewmembers were still missing, the spokesman said. Five bodies were recovered.
In the southern county of Wanju, a 48-year-old man was killed by a shipping container flipped over by gale-force winds, the public administration ministry said.
An elderly woman was crushed to death when a church spire collapsed onto her house in the southwestern city of Gwangju, while another elderly woman was blown off the roof of her home in the western county of Seocheon, it said.
A 77,000 tonne bulk carrier broke into two off the southeastern port of Sacheon, but no casualties were reported, the ministry said.
The transport ministry said all 87 sea ferry services had been halted. A total of 247 flights — 183 domestic and 64 international — have been canceled since Monday.
The typhoon — packing winds of 144km per hour at one time — brought heavy rain and strong winds to southern and western areas. It toppled street lights and signs, shattered windows, uprooted trees and tore off shop signs.
The National Emergency Management Agency said 197,751 homes in Jeju and the southwest and south-central regions lost power.
A total of 54 people, mostly in the southwest, were evacuated from their homes and taken to shelters. Sixteen homes were damaged.
The US and South Korean armed forces called a temporary halt to a large-scale joint military exercise that began last week.
After sweeping up the Yellow Sea to the west of South Korea, Bolaven was expected to make landfall in North Korea around 6pm.
Weather officials said Typhoon Tembin was also threatening the Korean Peninsula, and was forecast to be some 200km west of Jeju early on Friday.