By KIM TONG-HYUNG
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Dozens of flights and ferry services were grounded in South Korea on Wednesday ahead of a tropical storm that has dumped rain on Japan’s southwestern islands for more than a week.
Khanun’s heavy rains and winds were expected to arrive in South Korea’s southern and eastern regions Wednesday afternoon, South Korea’s weather agency said. It is expected to reach the southern resort island of Jeju hours later and then make landfall near the mainland port of Tongyeong early Thursday.
The agency says Khanun could have a punishing impact as it will likely slice through the center of the country over several hours, with the storm’s eye brushing the capital city of Seoul, while packing winds blowing at 90 to 154 kph (56 to 97 mph). The storm was expected to weaken by the time it blows into North Korea early Friday.
The Korean Meteorological Administration measured Khanun at typhoon strength with maximum winds of 126 kph (78 mph) as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, as it passed through waters 360 kilometers (223 miles) southeast of Jeju while moving northward at a speed of 12 kph (7.4 mph).
Winds were growing stronger in Jeju as of 12:10 p.m., blowing at a maximum 86 kph (53 mph) near Jeju City on the island’s northern side while dumping 6 centimeters (2.3 inches) of rain near Seogwipo City on the island’s southern side.
Japan measured Khanun as a severe tropical storm with sustained winds of 108 kph (67 mph) and higher gusts. Warnings for stormy conditions, potential flooding and other risks were issued for the southwestern part of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu and nearby areas.
As a stronger typhoon last week, Khanun lashed Okinawa and other Japanese islands, causing injuries and damage.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has called for officials to be aggressive with disaster prevention measures and evacuations while stressing the perils posed by the storm, which comes just weeks after the country’s central and southern regions were pounded by torrential rain that triggered flashfloods and landslides that killed at least 47 people.
The Korea Airport Corporation said at least 144 flights going in and out of Jeju were canceled as of 11 a.m. as Khanun approached. Ferry services connecting the island with mainland ports were also cancelled while authorities shut down at least 39 roads, 26 riverside parking lots and 613 hiking trails nationwide as part of broader preventive measures.
Khanun has forced South Korea to evacuate the World Scout Jamboree that had been taking place at a coastal campsite in the southwestern county of Buan. Officials on Tuesday mobilized more than 1,000 buses to transfer 37,000 global scouts to university dormitories, government and corporate training centers and hotels in the capital Seoul and nearby areas.