Typhoon Hinamnor hits South Korea, forcing thousands to flee

SEOUL, South Korea — The most powerful typhoon to hit South Korea in years slammed into its southern region on Tuesday, dumping nearly a meter (3 feet) of rain, destroying roads and downing power lines, leaving 20,000 homes without power as thousands of people fled in a safer land.

Typhoon Hinnamnor lashed the resort island of Jeju and made landfall near the mainland port of Busan in the morning and was moving northeast out to sea with winds of up to 144 kilometers (89 miles) per hour. It is on course to approach eastern China later in the week after ferry services to eastern China and flights to Japan were suspended in the previous days.

South Korean officials put the nation on alert about potential damage from floods, landslides and tidal waves unleashed by Hinnamnor, which came just weeks after heavy rains in the region around the capital Seoul caused flooding that killed at least 14 people.

Prime Minister Han Duk-soo called for evacuations in flood-vulnerable areas, saying Hinnamnor could turn out to be “a historically strong typhoon that we have never experienced before.”

The storm dumped more than 94 centimeters (37 inches) of rain in central Jeju since Sunday, where winds peaked at 155 km/h (96 mph).

A 25-year-old man is missing after falling into a rain-swollen stream in the southern city of Ulsan, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Security, which did not immediately report more casualties. Fires were reported at a major steel plant operated by POSCO in the southern city of Pohang, but it was unclear whether they were caused by the storm.

The Ministry of Safety said more than 3,400 people in southern areas had been forced to evacuate their homes due to safety concerns and that officials were advising or ordering another 14,000 people to evacuate. At least five houses and buildings were flooded or destroyed, and dozens of roads were damaged.

More than 600 schools were closed or converted to online classes. More than 250 flights and 70 ferry services were suspended, while more than 66,000 fishing boats were evacuated to ports. As of 6 a.m., workers had restored power to 2,795 of the 20,334 households that were without power.

A South Korean presidential official, who spoke on condition of anonymity during a briefing, said officials were investigating the cause of the fires at the POSCO plant in Pohang, where firefighters were working to extinguish flames that damaged at least three facilities at the complex.

Lim Yoon-sook, an official from the North Gyeongsang Province Fire Department, said the flames destroyed an electrical equipment building and continued to burn through a separate office building, although workers were close to putting out a smaller fire at a coke.

In North Korea, state media reported “comprehensive efforts” to minimize damage from floods and landslides. The Korean Central News Agency reported that leader Kim Jong Un issued unspecified “detailed tasks” during cabinet meetings to improve the country’s disaster response capacity, but did not elaborate on the plans.

North Korea suffered severe damage from heavy rains and floods in 2020 that destroyed buildings, roads and crops, shocking the country’s already crippled economy.

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