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Typhoon rips through southern parts, killing two

470 people in North Gyeongsang driven from homes by floods
Oct 08,2018
Typhoon Kong-rey vanished off the coast of Hokkaido, Japan, Sunday morning, after ripping through Korea’s southeast and leaving in its wake at least two dead and over a thousand homes flooded.

The storm made landfall on Korean shores near Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, on Saturday, then wreaked havoc as it moved northeast until it left the Korean Peninsula near Pohang on early Sunday morning.

North Gyeongsang was hardest hit with 470 people driven out of their homes, mostly because of flooding, according to the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, a disaster management agency under the Ministry of Interior and Safety. At its peak, the storm poured 700 millimeters (27.5 inches) of rain on the country’s southern and eastern coasts, and winds reached a peak speed of 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour), said a spokesman for the Korea Meteorological Administration.

The storm claimed the lives of at least two people, with another person still unaccounted for. A 66 year-old man in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, died after he was swept off a bridge by rising waters, while an 88 year-old man in Yeongdeok, North Gyeongsang, drowned after he slipped off a wet road into a nearby stream. Another 76 year-old man in Pohang remained missing as of press time Sunday after he attempted to cross a stream and was overwhelmed by the raging current.

A total of 1,326 homes were flooded as a result of the storm, 1,309 in North Gyeongsang and the rest in Gangwon. In Busan, Daegu and Jeju, 61,437 households experienced blackouts after the power supply was cut by the storm on Saturday. Dozens of minor accidents also occurred throughout these regions, overwhelming emergency authorities, who received over 200 storm-related accident reports on Saturday.

The economic toll of the typhoon has yet to be calculated but is estimated to be hundreds of million won. Around 1,142 hectares (2,821 acres) of farmland in Jeolla and Gyeongsang were affected, around half of which were flooded by rising waters. The storm was especially devastating to apple orchards around Yeongju and Bonghwa counties in North Gyeongsang, where strong winds stripped away much of the fruit ahead of the approaching harvest season.

The typhoon also led to cancellations or delays of dozens of flights and ship voyages across Korea before regular operations resumed by Sunday morning. Eleven national parks in the country’s southern regions were closed.

Kong-rey’s intensity took the government and the country’s weather agencies by surprise, since such storms rarely occur after the end of the summer rainy season from July to August. Weather analysts say the fact that this is the fourth such typhoon to hit Korea in October over the last six years demonstrates that climate change is turning these storms into a regular occurrence.

The last time a typhoon directly affected the country in the month of October was 2016, when Typhoon Chaba slammed through southern areas, killing at least seven people, paralyzing flights and trains as well as knocking out power for a few hours.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]