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(LEAD) Typhoon slams S. Korea hard, causes casualties, damage
SEOUL, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- The unusually powerful Typhoon Bolaven pounded South Korea with strong winds and heavy downpours on Tuesday, killing at least eight people in maritime and other accidents, causing enormous property damage to farmers and fishermen, and triggering massive power failures and flight cancellations, officials said.

   Torrential downpours and gale-force winds toppled trees, signboards, street lights and power lines, causing traffic chaos and cutting power to nearly 200,000 households nationwide, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said, noting at least three (South Korean) nationals were confirmed dead as of 3 p.m.

   The most powerful storm in a decade knocked down a church bell tower in Gwangju, 329 kilometers south of Seoul, and crushed an 89-year-old woman to death around noon, according to police officials. More deaths occurred in other regions as an elderly woman lost her balance and fell from her rooftop and two others were crushed to death by objects that were blown by gusts of strong wind.


In the most fatal accident, two Chinese fishing boats with 33 crew members aboard were crippled in waters off Jeju Island's southern port of Seogwipo on Tuesday, according to the Coast Guard. Five members were confirmed dead and 10 others remain missing.

   By around noon, 16 apartment complexes in regions in South Jeolla Province and Jeju Island were destroyed, while five apartment buildings on Jeju Island were inundated, forcing 72 people to evacuate, the NEMA said.

   Further property damage has been reported with four cars in Jeju's Seogwipo, the first area of the country struck by the typhoon, destroyed and a church steeple collapsed, NEMA said. In Gwangju, several cars at a 12-story parking lot were destroyed when the powerful wind caused the parking lot elevator to crash down.


A train bound for Suncheon, 415 kilometers south of Seoul, was also forced to stop midway and remained stationary for 44 minutes after an 8-meter-wide panel was blown off from a nearby rooftop and got caught under the train, according to local police officials.

   Seoul, home to about 10 million people, also sustained extensive property damage and accidents, as the storm passed northward about 120 km west of the port of Incheon Tuesday afternoon, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

   The typhoon, as of 2 p.m., maintained a central pressure of 960 hectopascals and a maximum wind speed of 40 meters per second after reaching a record speed of 51.8 meters per second earlier in the day, the KMA said, adding all areas of North Korea also were affected by the typhoon.


All elementary and secondary schools in Seoul were closed, while almost all other municipal and provincial governments across the country have also enforced temporary school closures.

   All domestic flights from Jeju International Airport and Seoul's Gimpo Airport have been canceled for the day, and Incheon International Airport, the gateway to Seoul, has also suspended all flights scheduled for Monday afternoon.

   President Lee Myung-bak held an emergency video conference with officials from the state weather agency and local governments overseeing regions in the typhoon's course and instructed local governments to keep their guard high against Typhoon Bolaven and take every possible step to minimize damage.

   Lee told officials to make sure that there won't be human casualties by evacuating those living in areas prone to flooding and landslides, and to try to minimize damage to crops and other agricultural products ahead of the harvest season, the spokesman said.