SEOUL, JULY 17 (FRIDAY) -- South Korea's official toll for dead and missing from Typhoon Thelma rose to 239, the state disaster relief center said.

It said at least 77 people were confirmed killed by floods, landslides and ship sinkings caused by Thelma, which ravaged southern areas of South Korea on Wednesday and yesterday. A further 162 were still missing, with many feared dead.

Tens of thousands of troops, police and rescue workers searched desperately for survivors, government officials said.

They said the toll of dead and missing rose dramatically because scores of missing fishermen were not covered in earlier counts. It was the worst natural disaster in South Korea since 1959 when Typhoon Sarah left 750 people dead or missing.

The relief center said more than 7,000 people were made homeless and about 131,000 acres of farmland was inundated while 1,200 acres of other crops were destroyed.

The hardest hit by Thelma were Pusan, the second largest city in South Korea, and nearby towns. Seoul newspapers said electrical transmission equipment was blown down at the industrial city of Ulsan, near Pusan, halting production at factories. Air force helicopters had to pluck 18 villagers nearby from amid flooding.