109 people dead or missing as South Korea counts cost of killer typhoon

from Agence France-Presse
Published on 14 Sep 2003
SEOUL, Sept 14 (AFP) - More than 100 people were reported dead or missing Sunday as South Korea y authorities said 84 people had been killed and 25 were missing after Typhoon Maemi smashed into southern provinces late Friday, triggering landslides and floods and plunging millions of people into darkness.

Some 5,000 soldiers were mobilised on Sunday to help with relief work as President Roh Moo-Hyun approved a special budget of 1.5 trillion won (1.28 billion dollars) to aid recovery efforts.

The government's Central Anti-Disaster Headquarters warned casualty figures could rise as communications were restored to areas cut off by the storm which destroyed 475 houses and left 25,000 people homeless.

Firefighters and relief officials recovered 11 bodies in flooded buildings Sunday, including eight from an underground karaoke bar in the southern industrial city of Masan.

Maemi, packing record-breaking 215 kilometer (135 mile) per hour winds, toppled huge cranes, destroyed ships, derailed trains and brought down electricity lines, forcing five nuclear power stations to suspend operations.

The typhoon caused 12.9 billion won worth of damage to power facilities, according to the ministry of commerce, industry and energy.

"It will take several days to recover power transmission lines," a ministry official said.

"We are more concerned about damage to Busan, the largest port for export cargo," he added.

Strong gusts felled 11 giant cranes weighing up to 985 tonnes in Busan. Five firefighters were injured in the port by a falling construction crane.

Television footage showed a row of seaside restaurants in Busan destroyed by typhoon-powered waves that breached the sea wall, wrecking cars, crumpling containers and scattering debris.

Floods disrupted operations at major industrial plants including oil refineries in the southeastern port of Ulsan and other industrial regions in the southern province of Gyeongsang, where 41 people were killed.

High waves also swept a giant floating oil rig into a shipyard in Ulsan, smashing it against a huge semi-built petrochemical carrier, shipyard officials said.

Rising waters, landslides and power blackouts forced some 2,000 people to evacuate in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Gangweon and Gyeongsang and the island of Jeju.

Japanese weather officials downgraded Maemi to a depression early on Sunday as it passed by the island of Hokkaido. The weather system had swept from South Korea's east coast into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) on Saturday.

The strength of Maemi has been compared to that of Typhoon Sara, which swept through South Korea in 1959 leaving 849 people dead in its wake.

Weathermen described Maemi as the most powerful typhoon since Korean weather records began in 1904.

Copyright (c) 2003 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 09/14/2003 04:18:31

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