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Typhoon Tapah hits Korea’s southern coast

A residential building collapsed in Busan, 94 flights were canceled
Sept 23,2019
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Two boats were pushed ashore by strong winds and high waves on Ilsan Beach in Ulsan on Sunday as Typhoon Tapah lashes southern Korea. [YONHAP]
Typhoon Tapah unleashed powerful winds and heavy rain on Jeju and the south of the Korean mainland Sunday, leaving at least one dead and two injured as the storm made its way northward toward the East Sea.

According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), the storm, traveling at a speed of 30 kilometers (19 miles) per hour with an atmospheric pressure of 970 hectopascals at its center, reached the Korea Strait Sunday afternoon, buffeting nearby Jeju Island and Busan with heavy rains and strong winds. Jeju, Busan and all counties in South Gyeongsang issued a public warning for the typhoon, the second to impact Korea this month after Typhoon Lingling hit the peninsula hard on Sept. 7.

Wind speeds on Jeju, which was only around 90 to 100 kilometers away from the eye of the typhoon at 3 p.m., reached 146 kilometers per hour, but the more serious problem was rain, which reached upwards of 700 millimeters (27.6 inches) on the island’s more mountainous areas.

Other areas on the mainland, like Sancheong and Geoje in South Gyeongsang, Pohang in North Gyeongsang and Ulsan, all experienced heavy rainfall of between 140 to 200 millimeters. While autumn storms are usually accompanied by heavy rains in Korea, KMA officials believe the meeting of the water vapor brought on by Typhoon Tapah with cold northern winds prolonged and intensified the downpour. In Busan, the powerful gusts from the approaching storm caused several accidents, including the collapse of a two-story residential building in Busanjin District on Saturday. A 72 year-old woman living on the first floor was crushed by the rubble and trapped for around 8 hours before she was discovered dead by firefighters on Sunday morning. According to police, the dilapidated building was over 40 years old and vulnerable to rain and wind.

A motorcycle driver was also severely injured in nearby Yeonje District after hitting a fallen streetlamp on Sunday morning, while in Suyeong District winds ripped off the roof of a bicycle storage shed that hit a 44 year-old man on the head.

Several other buildings and structures were reported damaged around the city, like in Nam District, where scaffolding at a construction site collapsed on power lines, leaving around 200 households in the area without power. Nationwide, a total of 1,486 households are believed to have experienced temporary power shortages as a result of the storm, though all have since been restored.

The storm also left thousands of travelers across the country stranded as flights were canceled or delayed and ships remained in port. In Jeju, over 300 flights were canceled as of Sunday morning, while at Gimhae International Airport, which services Busan and South Gyeongsang, 94 flights had to be canceled. At 60 ports in 11 counties and municipalities across the country, a total of 3,640 fishing vessels couldn’t sail, while all ferries and passenger ships were canceled for the weekend.

Until midday Monday, a further 200 to 400 millimeters of rain are expected to fall in Jeju, and 100 to 350 millimeters in Gyeongsang, South Jeolla, and eastern Gangwon. Due to the storm’s trajectory, Seoul and Gyeonggi were less affected, though some areas are expected to receive 10 to 80 millimeters of rain. Nonetheless, several public events in the capital were canceled on account of safety concerns.

Before nearing southern Korea, Typhoon Tapah battered Okinawa, Japan, where it killed at least two people and left 19 injured.

The storm was set to approach the coast of the Japanese Tsushima Island - 80 kilometers from Busan - by 9 p.m. on Sunday before entering the East Sea. The last piece of Korean territory expected to be affected by the storm are the Dokdo Islets, which Tapah is expected to pass by before tempering off in the ocean.

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