South Korea lashed by worst typhoon in a century

by Jiyoung Yoon of the Korean National Red Cross in Seoul
Typhoon "Maemi" swept through southern areas of South Korea on 13 September, leaving at least 87 people dead and almost 9,000 homeless. Some 28 people are still unaccounted for, feared carried away by mudslides and floods.

According to the National Disaster Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters (NDPCH), the typhoon, and an accompanying tidal wave, destroyed 3,323 households and disabled 2,218 communication centres nationwide. In the port of Busan, massive shipyard cranes were twisted out of shape and a huge cruise liner was tossed on its side.

The torrential rain left large areas of farmland under water and triggered landslides, which closed several roads and railway lines. Winds gusting up to 216 km an hour felled trees and power lines, leaving over one million people without electricity. Tens of thousands of residents were forced to evacuate their homes and take refuge in schools and other public facilities.

The Republic of Korean National Red Cross (KNRC) has run a non-stop relief operation since the beginning of the disaster. As the typhoon approached the Korean peninsula, the Red Cross chapters in Busan, Kyungnam and Kyungbuk operated ad-hoc emergency operation centres.

The Korean Red Cross mobilized its relief volunteers and HAM amateur radio volunteers, who provided an emergency communication system between disaster areas and relief centres.

Chapters located in the affected areas distributed relief supplies such as rice, instant-noodles, blankets, cooking utensils, mobile stove, daily necessities and supplementary foods to 8,190 households. Some 5,500 meals were provided for evacuated people in Busan, Daegu, Kangwon, and Kyungnam.

About 700 Red Cross volunteers and 200 staff members took part in the operation to distribute the relief goods. The KNRC will continue its relief activities in cooperation with the government.

The government plans to declare typhoon-hit areas as special disaster zone and to ensure a quick recovery by supporting rehabilitation and relief works.