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Typhoon Hinnamnor hits South Korea, leaving thousands without power

Heavy waves battered the coast and damaged roads along the shore in Ulsan, South Korea, early Tuesday. (AP)
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SEOUL — Thousands of people were evacuated and 66,000 homes were left without electricity in South Korea after Typhoon Hinnamnor slammed through the country’s south on Tuesday.

The storm made landfall about 4:50 a.m. local time, unleashing powerful winds and heavy rain that flooded facilities, caused landslides and damaged roads, before it headed back out to sea a couple of hours later, the Korea Meteorological Administration said. The typhoon weakened before its arrival but still delivered maximum sustained winds of over 90 mph.

About 3,500 people, mostly in the country’s south, were evacuated from their homes, according to the Ministry of the Interior and Safety.

One person died in Pohang after being swept away by floodwaters, officials said. Another died in the nearby city of Gyeongju, authorities said later. Ten people were unaccounted for, including eight who vanished at a flooded parking lot in Pohang.

Typhoon Hinnamnor bears down on South Korea, bringing damaging winds

The typhoon disrupted industries across the country, forcing some to suspend operations. Fires broke out at a steel plant in Pohang, and its operator, Posco, was investigating whether the typhoon was the cause. Floods in Pohang also washed away a vacation property, local media reported. The Kori nuclear power plant near the city of Busan partially suspended operations because of a typhoon-induced “abnormality,” Busan Ilbo newspaper reported.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol urged residents not to lower their guard, even as the most critical threat appeared to have passed. Timely evacuation had prevented a more serious situation, he said.

The typhoon also affected North Korea, dumping more than 4 inches of rainfall across dozens of regions in the country over the past two days, the Korean Central News Agency said on Tuesday.

In an apparent response to the downpour, North Korea released water from a dam near its southern border, South Korea’s military said. North Korean authorities did not notify the South about the dam opening, despite repeated requests from Seoul.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper called for “maximum preparedness” as the storm approached, especially in the agricultural sector. “If we fail to prevent typhoon damage, we will lose the precious crops for which we have been toiling all spring and summer seasons,” it said. The autumn harvest yield in the country, however, is likely to be affected because of adverse weather this year, North Korea observers said.

A deepening food shortage and widespread malnutrition in the isolated nation could worsen the chronic humanitarian situation. Since North Korea slammed its borders shut at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, almost all international trade has been suspended and external aid, including coronavirus vaccines, has largely failed to reach the country.

Typhoons regularly churn across the Pacific between June and November each year. But climate scientists have warned that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and damaging as a result of global warming.