South Korea warns of casualties as super typhoon approaches

SSouth Korea’s meteorological agency warned there could be casualties as the nation braces for the most powerful storm in its history to make landfall early Tuesday.

Oil refineries to chemical operations and the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant have begun taking precautions with Super typhoon Hinamnor is expected to hit the resort island of Jeju and the key industrial city of Ulsan on the country’s southeast coast after disrupting ports and air traffic in China and Japan.

“We are now entering a phase where we need to minimize casualties,” Han Sang-un, chief forecaster of Korea Meteorological Administrationsaid during a briefing Monday, urging residents of southern coastal areas to stay indoors instead of doing maintenance to prepare for the storm’s arrival.

“This is a massive typhoon with a radius of 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) that is large enough to cover Seoul to Busan. There will be heavy rain and wind in most regions in Korea,” he said. According to the administration, the typhoon is likely to hit Jeju around 1 a.m. local time on Tuesday and southern coastal cities around 7 a.m.

The operating speeds of three reactors at the Corry nuclear power plant were reduced to less than 30% to prepare for the storm, while LNG traders said they expected some supplies to be delayed to avoid the storm’s impact.

South Korea’s largest oil refinery SK Innovation Co. has stopped crude oil ships from entering its port of Ulsan and is working to provide backup power to the plant, a company spokesman said. GS Caltex Corp. evacuated the ships to a safety zone, and LG Chem Ltd. operates under an emergency response plan with increased safety monitoring at its Yeosu and Ulsan plants.

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State-owned Korea Electric Power Corp. takes measures to ensure stable electricity supplies. Subsidiary Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. curtailed production at the Kori nuclear plant as a precaution to guard against any sudden outages if the reactors were directly affected by Hinnamnor.

The storm, which is forecast to be even more destructive in South Korea than Typhoon Sara in 1959, was moving north-northeast at about 17 kilometers per hour, about 300 kilometers south-southwest of the Jeju coast at noon in Seoul, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. Hinnamnor is currently packing sustained winds of about 127 mph with gusts up to 155 mph, according to the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

President Yoon Suk-yeol said the government would continue to protect the lives and safety of citizens, while the country’s Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said there were concerns that worsening weather could affect consumer prices at a time when inflation remains high.

Hinnamnor has already disrupted port operations, airlines and schools across Asia since it emerged last month. Shanghai’s main Yangshan container port is preparing to resume terminal operations after an earlier shutdown, while the ports of Busan and Ulsan in South Korea are closed. Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. canceled more than 170 domestic flights for Monday and Tuesday, and some airline arrivals and departures in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture were also canceled. Some schools in South Korea and China will be closed for safety reasons.

South Korea’s largest steel producer Posco Holdings Inc. is considering partial closure of its Pohang plant and shipbuilders including Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. are discussing whether to halt production, the companies said Monday.

Almost 200 residents in coastal areas of Busan, the nation’s second most populous city, were asked to evacuate to shelters on Monday, while shops in Marine City in the Haeundae beach district were told to temporarily close.

With help from Kevin Varley and Heejin Kim

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