Seoul/Tokyo: South Korea hunkered down as Typhoon Haishen travelled northwards along the country’s east coast on Monday, a day after the powerful storm battered Japan’s southern islands where four people are missing following a landslide.
The storm, carrying top sustained winds of up to 112 kilometres per hour, cut power to more than 17,500 households in the southern tip of the Korean peninsula as it made landfall in the southern city of Ulsan, the country’s weather agency said.
The wild weather uprooted trees and caused landslides near apartment buildings on Geoje Island, off the southeastern tip of the peninsula, according to footage sent by residents to local broadcaster KBS.
At least one person was injured after their car overturned in strong winds in Busan, the country’s second largest city, where there was also flooding, the safety ministry said in a statement.
More than 1600 people were evacuated in preparation for the storm, while more than 76 flights across seven airports, including Jeju International Airport, were cancelled.
Two nuclear reactors in the city of Gyeongju, around 375 kilometres south-east of Seoul were shut down, according to Yonhap news agency. Entries to national parks and some national train services have been suspended, the ministry said.
In Japan, the Kyodo news agency reported that four people were missing and more than 50 people were injured in the wake of the typhoon.
The four went missing in the village of Shiiba, in Miyazaki prefecture, after a mudslide hit the office of a construction firm, Kyodo said.
Among the injured were a woman who fell down a flight of stairs in the dark and four people who sustained cuts after the glass windows of an evacuation centre were blown in.
Kyushu Electric said about 290,000 houses had been left without power.
Almost 2 million people had been ordered to evacuate the region, which was still recovering from heavy rains and flooding in July that killed 83 people.
Typhoon Haishen comes just days after Typhoon Maysak smashed into the Korean peninsula, leaving at least two dead and thousands without power.
North Korea, which bore the brunt of both Maysak and Typhoon Bavi a week earlier, is also in Haishen’s trajectory with the storm expected to draw near the port city of Chongjin on Monday afternoon.
Live footage on state TV, a rarity that has now been broadcast for three weeks, showed trees shaking and waves rising in Tongchon county in Gangwon province bordering the South. The state broadcaster reported that all Tongchon residents had been evacuated.
North Korea’s agriculture sector is particularly vulnerable to severe weather, and this summer’s storms and floods have raised concerns over the country’s tenuous food situation.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday toured coastal areas hit by Maysak, and ordered party members to join the recovery effort.
In Japan, around 440,000 homes in the south-western Kyushu region remained without power on Monday morning after the storm passed through, public broadcaster NHK reported. It added that 32 people were injured, including a woman who fell down a flight of stairs in the dark and four people who sustained cuts after the glass windows of an evacuation centre were blown in.
The Japan Meteorological Agency issued its highest-level warning for the storm, cautioning that it would bring record-high tides and that residents should be prepared for “large-scale flooding.”
“High tides combined with large waves could top coastal sea walls and inundate a wide area,” it said in a statement on its website on Sunday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned residents to listen to local authorities and “take immediate action to protect your life,” adding that the country’s Self-Defence Forces were prepared to offer aid in the event of widespread damage.
By Sunday evening, fears for the worst seemed to be waning as it appeared the storm would only brush the region. Nevertheless, it was powerful enough to create major disruptions in the area.
As of 10pm, more than 200,000 homes in Kyushu had lost power as the storm blew down trees and power lines, according to Kyushu Electric Power.
Japan Railways said it would cancel some bullet train service in the region through Monday evening. And All Nippon Airways said it had cancelled hundreds of flights across Kyushu and Okinawa through Tuesday.
The 7-Eleven convenience store chain said it had closed more than 2000 outlets across the area affected by the storm.
About a dozen people have suffered injuries, according to reports by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.
Haishen is the second major storm of this year’s typhoon season, which has been unusually calm so far. Typhoon Maysak grazed Kyushu last week before heading to the Korean Peninsula.
The storm capsized a China-bound cattle ship off the coast, leaving dozens of crew members missing. Japan’s Coast Guard rescued two, but suspended its search as Haishen approached.
Typhoons are common in Japan, although the strength and severity of the storms have grown in recent years, a trend that climatologists have attributed to climate change.
Last October, Typhoon Hagibis blew through central Japan, killing about 100 people and causing more than $17 billion in economic damage. The typhoon raised concerns that Japan’s infrastructure is insufficient for the era of superstorms, when so-called hundred-year floods are becoming increasingly common.
This year, evacuation orders could be complicated by the coronavirus pandemic as evacuees worry about being exposed to the virus in local shelters.
Shelters in Kyushu’s Miyazaki city were accepting less than half of their normal capacity in order to allow for social distancing, according to NHK. Some evacuees were taking shelter at hotels in an effort to avoid evacuation facilities.
Reuters, The New York Times