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88 Dead After South Korea Typhoon

Asia: The death toll mounts as soldiers and disaster officials search for the missing and begin cleaning up Rusa's damage.

September 02, 2002|From Times Wire Services

SEOUL — The National Disaster Prevention Headquarters announced today that a powerful typhoon that slammed into South Korea over the weekend left more than 88 people dead and 70 missing.

Word of the higher toll came as soldiers and disaster officials struggled against mountains of mud and swollen rivers in an attempt to find missing people who were reported swept away by the water or buried in landslides.

The disaster agency also said in a statement that property damage so far stood at $262 million and that 27,474 people remained evacuated from their homes.

Typhoon Rusa--the Malay word for deer--dumped up to 36 inches of rain over the weekend in eastern and southern South Korea.

The typhoon left the peninsula Sunday afternoon, moving across the east coast without causing further damage.

Wind gusts of up to 127 mph had ripped up trees and knocked down 7,800 electricity poles, causing a blackout for 1.16 million households. About 240,000 homes still did not have power Sunday, and 140,000 homes remained without telephone service.

Parts of a field hockey stadium and other facilities built for the Sept. 29-Oct. 14 Asian Games were wrecked. The games, Asia's Olympics, are to be held in the southern port of Pusan, South Korea's second-largest city.

More than 17,000 houses and buildings were submerged, forcing 27,474 residents to take shelter at public buildings and schools. Some began returning to mud-covered homes Sunday as rains subsided.

Floods inundated 12,621 acres of farmland.

President Kim Dae Jung convened an emergency Cabinet meeting Sunday and ordered the government and military to mobilize personnel and equipment for rescue and repair.

Anti-disaster officials began clearing roads and railways that were cut off by floods and landslides. Parts of three rail lines and three highways remained closed late Sunday.

"Reports of casualties are coming in from everywhere. Considering past typhoon damages, we believe the death toll would hover over 100," said a disaster official.

Local media reported higher tolls, with up to 132 people dead or missing.

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