GANGNEUNG, South Korea – A powerful typhoon that lashed South Korea over the weekend killed at least 113 people and the toll will likely rise as officials check reports of others missing in floods and landslides, the government said today.
Rusa was the deadliest typhoon to hit South Korea since 1959, when Typhoon Sara left more than 840 people dead or missing.
This morning the government’s anti-disaster center said that 113 people were confirmed killed and 71 others missing after Rusa swept through eastern and southern parts of South Korea. All-news station YTN put the death toll at 138 killed and 77 missing. Earlier, officials said 88 had been killed.
Park Chung-ho, a center official, said the death toll could rise as communications with remote, isolated areas were restored.
Rusa, the Malaysian word for deer, destroyed many sections of railways and roads, wiped out bridges, knocked out electricity and submerged thousands of homes. Property damage was tentatively put at $750 million.
One of the hardest was Gangwon province on the country’s east coast where 128 people were killed or missing. Its seat, Gangneung, was swamped by waist-high floods after two steady days of torrential rains.
“Nothing is more miserable than this,” said Kim Bun-hee, a 61-year-old housewife, standing in a long line to get a ration of drinking water brought by firetrucks. Kim said the basement of her home was still filled with water.
Power outages that had crippled the city of 220,000 for two days were eased as officials began repairing damaged power lines. But residents had difficulty getting drinking water.
Hundreds of graves were washed away in a landslide that destroyed a large part of a public cemetery outside Gangneung. Television clips showed people shoveling the leveled ground to try to locate the missing tombs of their loved ones.
Thousands of soldiers were helping residents clear mounds of broken furniture and damaged household goods that filled streets.
The government ordered the military and police to help in the rehabilitation work. Helicopters were used to drop relief goods in isolated villages in the country’s southern areas.
North Korea also reported heavy human losses and property damage. Its official media, the Korean Central News Agency, said “scores” of people were killed and large farmlands were destroyed.