South Korea has been hit by the most powerful typhoon in years, leaving 66,000 households without electricity and prompting thousands to be evacuated. Typhoon Hinnamnor made a landfall near the mainland port of Busan about 4:50 a.m local time bringing powerful winds which felled power lines. Heavy rain flooded facilities, caused landslides and damaged roads.
There have been no deaths, so far, but a person was reported missing in the south-eastern city of Ulsan.
Historically Strong Typhoon
South Korea, over the weekend, issued its most severe typhoon warning â the highest-level alert in five years. Officials described Typhoon Hinnamnor as one of the most powerful to fall on South Korea in decades.
Prime Minister Han Duk-soo said it could end up being a "historically strong typhoon that we never experienced before". The typhoon moved at a speed of 144 kilometres per hours in the morning. It dumped more than 94 centimetres of rain in central Jeju since Sunday. The storm comes just weeks after heavy rains in the region around capital Seoul caused flooding that killed 14 people.
The Korea Meteorological Administration said the typhoon was downgraded to "strong" from "super strong" with winds up to 154 kph being observed. The country, except Incheon and Seoul, remains under heavy rain warnings. Typhoon Hinnamnor is expected to move north-east and pass 400 km north-west of Sapporo, Japan at midnight on Tuesday.
More than 3,400 people in the southern regions were forced to evacuate from their homes, says the Safety Ministry, due to safety reasons. Five homes and buildings were flooded, or destroyed and roads damaged. Hundreds of schools were closed, more than 250 flights and 70 ferry services were grounded, and more than 66,000 fishing boats evacuated to ports.
Fires at POSCO's Pohang Plant
South Korean officials are also looking into the cause of fires at POSCO's Pohang plant. Fire fighters were busy extinguishing fires that had damaged three facilities at the complex. Lim Yoon-sook, an official from the North Gyeongsang province fire department, revealed the fires destroyed a building housing electricity equipment. The fire continued through a separate office building.
A spokesperson for POSCO said two factories at the plant were affected by the fire. There were no casualties. POSCO is trying to assess the damage. Its believed the power outage caused by the typhoon led to a byproduct gas release at the plant, thus the fire. POSCO is halting operations at its production facilities, including the furnaces, until the storm passes.
Precautionary Measures Taken
As the typhoon intensified over the weekend, oil refiners, chemical operations and the country's oldest nuclear power plant took precautionary measures. The run rates of three reactors at the Kori Nuclear Power Plant were lowered to less than 30%. The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power lowered output at the Kori Nuclear Plant pre-emptively to stand-up against any abrupt disruptions if the reactors were directly hit by the typhoon. The storm was expected to hammer the resort island of Jeju and the industrial city of Ulsan on the South Korea's south-east coast.
Han Sang Un, the chief forecaster at Korea Meteorological Administration, during a briefing on Monday said they are now entering a phase where they have to minimize casualties. He urged residents of southern coastal areas to remain indoors.