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Typhoon Maemi Pounds South Korea - 2003-09-13


A powerful typhoon has slammed into South Korea, killing at least 58 people, forcing thousands to flee to emergency shelters and leaving almost 1.5 million households without electricity.

The storm was named Maemi, a Korean word, and although typhoons are common in East Asia at this time of year, this was one of the strongest to hit South Korea in years.

The storm tore through the country's southeast Friday night and early Saturday, lashing the area with winds that reached record speeds of 216 kilometers per hour. It then turned out to sea again.

Some of the victims drowned in flash floods or were crushed by falling structures or buried in landslides. Rail and road links and farmlands were inundated or buried, and electricity and telephone service were cut off in many areas.

Eleven giant cranes were toppled in the port city of Busan, and a train was derailed by a landslide in the central province of North Chungcheong, injuring 28 people.

Some 1.34 million households in the southern province of Gyeongsang lost electrical power.

The storm hit as thousands of people were visiting their hometowns on the southern islands for a thanksgiving holiday known as Chuseok. They were stranded, as high waves prevented ferries from operating.

Authorities say they fear that the death toll will rise as more accidents are reported, and as missing people are accounted for.

Officials say the typhoon has now weakened to a tropical storm.

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