A tree lies with its roots exposed on a street in Mapo, Seoul, after being pulled out of the ground by powerful wind accompanied by Typhoon Meari, Sunday. The typhoon pounded the country with heavy rain and high winds, causing substantial human casualties and property damage. / Korea Times photo by Kim Joo-young
By Lee Hyo-sik
Typhoon Meari pounded Jeju Island and south and west parts of the Korean Peninsula over the weekend with heavy rain and high winds, causing human casualties and property damage.
It passed through the country’s southwestern coast before striking western parts of North Korea late Sunday night.
The year’s first typhoon destroyed many bridges and roads, and flooded farmland, while forcing hundreds of fishing boats and ferries to remain moored and airlines to cancel flights. Nine people were killed in accidents or after being swept away by waters, with three others missing, police said.
According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA) Sunday, a typhoon warning was issued for Jeju Island, and the Jeolla and Chungcheong provinces.
Residents in Seoul and central provincial areas were advised to watch out for the tropical storm, which had caused heavy damage in Southeast Asian countries before heading north. A high wave warning was also issued for southwestern coastal areas, forcing all fishing boats and ferries to remain in port.
The typhoon aggravated heavy property damage, which had been caused by previous heavy rain that began Thursday.
A bridge on the Nakdong River in the southeastern part of the country collapsed Saturday due to rising waters, resulting from the heavy downpour.
Hundreds of acres of farmland and greenhouses were inundated across the country, while many mountainside roads were damaged due to mudslides.
On Jeju Island and southern parts of the peninsula, many households faced blackouts as strong winds knocked down electricity pylons.
A rescue official in Gangwon Province was killed during a search for a missing toddler. A teenage student was found dead after being washed away in rapid torrents in Chungju, North Chungcheong Province.
“The operation of fishing boats and ferries connecting islands in the West Sea and South Sea were suspended due to high waves.
The typhoon also grounded the majority of flights coming in and out of Jeju Island,” a KMA official said. But no disruptions of international flights were reported at Incheon and Gimpo airports.
The KMA said the typhoon brought a 30-meter-per-second wind and up to 30 milliliters of rain per hour in the country’s central region. Some areas received up to 200 milliliters of rain Sunday alone. Prior to Meari, the country had already received up to 330 milliliters of rain from Thursday to Saturday.
“People must remain vigilant until the typhoon passes through because strong winds and heavy rain have and will cause significant property damage. Farmers should be prepared to prevent farmland from being inundated, as well as fortify various structures against the strong wind,” the official said.
He urged urban residents to refrain from going outside and to watch out for falling objects.
“The typhoon was initially expected to strike the Ongjin Peninsula, northwest of Incheon, at around 4 p.m. Sunday. But it hit Shinuiju, North Korea, late Sunday night. Before hitting the region, it was moving northward at a speed of 59 kilometers per hour over the West Sea,” the official said.
The rain is forecast to stop in Seoul and its surrounding areas by Monday morning. By the afternoon, clear skies are likely to return to most of the country.
The central and municipal governments were put on high alert for the typhoon, mobilizing all civil servants to deal with its fallout.
Related Cabinet ministers held a meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters in central Seoul to ensure the government’s readiness to cope.
At the meeting, Maeng Hyungkyu, minister of public administration and security, asked chiefs of provincial governments to properly prepare.
“The typhoon may cause devastating damage. All disastercountering headquarters should take all possible steps to minimize damage,” Maeng said.