- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 13, 2003

SEOUL — The most powerful typhoon to ever hit South Korea in modern times flipped over a floating hotel, twisted massive cranes, killed at least 62 persons and left another 25 missing yesterday.

Typhoon Maemi lashed the southeastern coast with 135-mph winds Friday night before subsiding into a tropical storm yesterday morning. Nearly 25,000 people fled to shelters as the storm dumped 17.8 inches of rain in some places, triggering landslides and floods, the government’s anti-disaster office said.

In Pusan, the nation’s second-largest city and its main port, the storm toppled 11 container-lifting cranes and mangled their steel legs and arms. Steel containers as long as 20 feet were scattered around the port.

A floating hotel anchored at Pusan’s beach flipped over and lay on its side in shallow water. It had been evacuated before the storm. At least 18 empty fishing boats capsized.

Elsewhere in Pusan, a construction crane collapsed on a fire engine, injuring five firefighters.

The typhoon caused a landslide early yesterday that derailed three cars of the Saemaeul Express train as it traveled from Seoul to the southern city of Andong. One person was hospitalized, while 27 others were treated for minor injuries and released.

The natural disaster office said at least 62 persons were killed by landslides, drowning, electric shock and other causes.

Among those killed were two persons whose bodies were removed from the basement of a shopping center in Masan city. Another 20 persons were feared trapped in the basement and their fate was not known, said Lee Jong-ryol at the city’s anti-disaster center.

Maemi — named for a summer insect, the cicada — is “by far the most powerful typhoon since we began compiling weather records in 1904,” said Yoon Seok-hwan, an official at the Korea Meteorological Administration. He said its wind speed beat the 129.6-mph record set by Typhoon Prapiroon in 2000.

Seoul, the capital, lies well inland in northwestern South Korea and was relatively unaffected by the storm.

Five of the nation’s 18 nuclear power plants were closed because their transformers or power lines were damaged by the typhoon, the anti-disaster headquarters said. No radiation leakage was reported, it said.

About 20 major factories in Ulsan and Onsan cities on the southeast coast, including two major oil refineries, were forced to temporarily halt operations, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy said.

Prime Minister Goh Kun convened a meeting of ministers to plan for repairing the damage. Chyung Dai-chul, chairman of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, said he would consult with the government to draft a supplemental budget to assist rehabilitation work in flood-hit areas.

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