Korean Peninsula Swept by Deadly Typhoon

SEOUL, South Korea, September 2, 2002 (ENS) - Korean emergency workers have began efforts to recover from Saturday's Typhoon Rusa, the worst storm to hit Korea in 43 years. Korean weather forecasters say another typhoon is forming offshore and could strike the peninsula later this week.


Typhoon Rusa on August 29 (Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA)
Although final figures are not yet in, the government disaster agency reports that 200 people have been killed in South Korea and 69 are reported missing after Typhoon Rusa hit the east coast of the Korean peninsula, dumping up to 34 inches of rain on some areas and generating winds that destroyed more than 20,000 buildings.

Scores of North Koreans are dead, and the North's official KCNA news agency said thousands of homes and a telephone system in Kangwon have been destroyed.

In the south, some 27,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate low lying areas throughout the country.

Government agencies report that 15,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and 24,000 other families have been left without electricity.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said that the government would do its best to help victims of the disaster to return to normal life as soon as possible. The president called an emergency meeting of cabinet ministers on Sunday. He urged the ministers to quickly repair all facilities damaged by the typhoon.


South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and his Cabinet meet on Sunday to deal with the typhoon disaster (Photo courtesy Office of the President)
Many of the buildings constructed for the Asian Games scheduled to open on September 29 were damaged, including a stadium in Pusan which lost its roof due to high winds. Organizers announced that the games would not be affected by the typhoon.

The South Korean government has mobilized sine 30,000 troops for rescue and cleanup work. All available manpower has been pressed into service to restore damaged traffic and communication networks.

The typhoon is the most costly in the South Korean history, having damaged more than 20,000 buildings, washed away 200 bridges and highways and caused an estimated $200 million in damage from floods and landslides, government information officials said.

The storm destroyed both the nationís main expressway as well as the part of the railway system dealing a severe blow to the nation's passenger and cargo transportation. This is the first time any section of the nationís most extensive highway system, the Gyeongbu Expressway, has ever been closed since its construction in 1970.

Today, flights into some airports were permitted, and some ferries have resumed limited services.

Officials expect that it will take more than a week to fully recover from the damage brought on by the lethal storm. But the country will barely have time to catch its breath before another typhoon. Korea Meteorological Administration forecasts indicate that within the next few days the peninsula will be struck by Typhoon Sinlaku, another powerful storm forming offshore and following the same route as Rusa.

Korean health authorities posted alerts warning of the possible outbreak of waterborne diseases, and advising people to pay special attention to personal hygiene.