September 29, 2023

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A tropical storm causes floods and evacuations in South Korea after it hits Japan

A tropical storm causes floods and evacuations in South Korea after it hits Japan

SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – South Korean authorities evacuated more than 10,000 people and closed schools in flood-affected areas as Tropical Storm Khanon lashed the peninsula on Thursday after battering southern Japan over the past week.

After turning from a hurricane into a tropical storm, Khanon reached the southeastern coast, and was heading toward the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Khanon could also hit North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, and state media there have reported that the military and ruling party have been ordered to prepare flood mitigation measures and save crops.

South Korea’s interior ministry said about 350 flights and 410 train lines have been canceled, and more than 10,000 people have been moved to safe places. There were no reports of injuries.

The meteorological agency said the storm brought up to 60 millimeters (2.36 inches) of rain per hour in some east coast towns, and maximum winds of 126 kilometers per hour (78 mph) in the southeastern port city of Busan.

Khannon was passing Northcheongcheong Province in central South Korea at 16:30 p.m. (0730 GMT), cutting speed slightly as it moved north at 31 km per hour (19 mph) toward the greater Seoul area.

“I am worried that people who live in the lowlands or make a living from farming and fishing will suffer,” said Kim Wei-jeong, a 33-year-old office worker who lives in the capital.

Most schools closed for the summer holidays, the Education Department said, but nearly half of the schools offering summer classes, about 1,600, either closed or switched to remote learning because of the storm. Some schools in the eastern coastal province of Gangwon have been hit by floods and landslides.

The storm added to the misery of the 37,000 young people who attended the world famous Scout Jamboree. After experiencing a heatwave last week, they were moved to safer accommodations on Tuesday as their campsite was in the path of the storm.

The country is still recovering from heavy monsoon rains last month, which left more than 40 people dead, including 14 in a flooded tunnel.

Lee Hyun-ho, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Gongju National University, said Khanon was the first storm to pass directly over the Korean peninsula. He said rising sea surface temperatures made them more powerful.

“The higher the temperatures, the more energy the storms can get. So we’re likely to see stronger tornadoes in the future,” Lee said.

Fueled by moist air from the storm, heavy rains were still battering parts of western Japan, with some areas improving than normal for August this past week. One town recorded 985 mm (38.78 in) as of Thursday morning.

Another storm, Typhoon Lan, approached the Ogasawara Islands, about 1,000 km south of Tokyo, late Wednesday.

Although the storm’s track is uncertain, the Japan Meteorological Agency said it could affect the Tokyo area by the end of the weekend.

The bad weather comes in the middle of Obon, the main summer holiday in Japan, when many people leave the big cities to go back to their hometowns.

Typhoon Khanun has caused heavy rains in southern parts of Japan as it continues heading toward South Korea, where it may make landfall on Thursday.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies in Tokyo, Hyunsoo Yim, Shin Hyunhee and Minwoo Park in Seoul; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Ed Davies and Simon Cameron-Moore

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