SEOUL – Hundreds of flights were canceled in South Korea while North Korea’s leader expressed concern about a possible loss of lives and crops as the countries braced for a fast-approaching typhoon forecast as one of the strongest to hit their peninsula this year.
Packing a maximum wind speed of 155 kilometers (96 miles) per hour, Typhoon Bavi was already lashing South Korea’s southern resort island of Jeju on Wednesday afternoon, flooding roads, toppling trees, ripping off signboards and knocking down lampposts as it passed over waters off the island’s western shores. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
South Korea’s weather agency said the typhoon would begin affecting the mainland at night before making landfall in western North Korea early Thursday. The agency warned of possible severe damage caused by very strong winds and heavy rainfall.
In Jeju, strong winds and rain knocked out power to hundreds of homes and damaged buildings, trees, streetlamps, telephone poles, road barriers and signboards, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said.
More than 480 domestic flights in and out of Jeju and the southern mainland city of Busan were canceled as of Wednesday evening. South Korean authorities also shut public parks and sea bridges and moved hundreds of fishing boats and other vessels, the ministry said.
In the capital, Seoul, and other cities, health workers dismantled at least 75 makeshift coronavirus testing stations over worries that the tents and booths might not withstand strong winds.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said that during a ruling party meeting on Tuesday, the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, called for thorough preparations to minimize casualties and damage from the typhoon. The storm comes weeks after torrential rains caused flooding and massive damage to homes and crops in North Korea, inflicting further pain to an economy ravaged by pandemic-linked border closures and U.S.-led sanctions over the North’s nuclear program.
KCNA said earlier that a typhoon warning was issued in most areas of the country, with officials moving fishing boats and applying protective measures to buildings, farms and railroads.