Typhoon pounds South Korea, smashes ships; 9 dead

Hyung-Jin Kim

Hyung-Jin Kim – Associated Press

A powerful typhoon pounded South Korea with strong winds and heavy rain Tuesday, killing nine and churning up rough seas that smashed two Chinese fishing ships into rocks and forced the coast guard to perform a daring rescue of survivors.

Rescuers saved 12 fishermen and searched for 10 still missing from the ships that hit rocks off South Korea’s southern Jeju island. Five fishermen were killed, officials said.

Separately, at least four other people died as Typhoon Bolaven knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, canceled flights and temporarily halted joint war games by U.S. and South Korean military forces.

North Korea, which is still struggling to rebuild from massive floods and a devastating drought before that, was next in the typhoon’s path. Heavy rain and strong winds hit many parts of the country Tuesday, a day that was supposed to be a North Korean celebration of its young people.

The typhoon knocked down hundreds of trees, destroyed power cables and caused blackouts in the western cities of Kaesong and Haeju, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said. It said damage was expected to grow as the typhoon moves across the country.

Off South Korea’s Jeju island, dangerous waves kept rescue vessels from approaching the wrecked fishing ships. The coast guard used a special gun to shoot rope to one ship so officers could pull themselves over and bring the fishermen back to shore, coast guard spokesman Ko Chang-keon said.

Eighteen fishermen survived. The coast guard rescued 12, and the others swam or were washed ashore.

South Korea issued a storm warning for the capital, Seoul, as Bolaven battered the country’s south and west, knocking over street lights and church spires and ripping signs from stores.

Strong wind gusts left Seoul streets covered with leaves, garbage and branches. More than 15,000 schools canceled classes, and businesses and homes taped windows or pasted the glass with wet newspapers to keep them from shattering.

About 1.7 million South Korean homes and businesses lost power, the National Emergency Management Agency said, though all but about 200,000 had electricity restored by Tuesday night.