Hundreds of flights were canceled, ferries suspended and fishing vessels recalled to harbor, as Typhoon Maysak approached the southern island of Jeju on Wednesday afternoon, on its course to make landfall near Busan.
Local authorities were in emergency response mode ahead of the arrival of the typhoon, which meteorologists warned could be the most powerful to hit the country in years.
According to the Korea Meteorological Administration, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday Maysak was at sea 190 kilometers southeast of Seogwipo, Jeju Island, advancing north at 19 kilometers per hour. It was categorized as a “very strong” typhoon, the second-highest classification on the weather agency’s five-level scale, with a maximum wind speed of 45 meters per second and an atmospheric pressure of 945 hectopascals at its center.
The ninth typhoon of this year, which formed far off the east coast of the Philippines last week, was expected to land on the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula early Thursday morning. South Korea is expected to be clear from the typhoon later the same morning, when Maysak exits its territory through the east coast. The typhoon is forecast to continue northward and come ashore again in North Korean territory.
According to the Korea Airports Corporation at 2 p.m. Wednesday, a total of 437 domestic flights have been canceled due to the typhoon.
Jeju International Airport canceled 149 flights until that time and later suspended all flight operations for the remainder of the day. Airports in other regions also canceled flights to and from affected regions and are planning to have them suspended until the tropical storm departs South Korea on Thursday morning.
Jeju Island and North Gyeongsang, South Gyeongsang, South Jeolla, North Jeolla and Gangwon provinces each evacuated thousands of fishing boats and ships ahead of the typhoon’s arrival and restricted access to their national parks.
More than 1,700 households experienced a power outage in Jeju Island. No casualties or additional property damage had been reported as of press time.
Meanwhile, the central government has been preparing with emergency maintenance efforts since last weekend and is on alert to keenly respond to any impact in the affected regions.
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety elevated the weather alert level to "serious," the highest of four levels of vigilance. With the weather agency expecting Typhoon Maysak to take a similar path as the one that Typhoon Maemi took in 2003, they worry of immense damage and casualties in affected regions.
Typhoon Maemi was one of the most devastating typhoons to hit the country with over 130 casualties. Meteorologists have warned Maysak could yield greater damage than Maemi, as the latest typhoon could come ashore with top winds surpassing 40 meters per second, compared with Maemi’s 38 meters per second.
The weather agency said Typhoon Maysak could have a maximum wind speed of 40 meters per second when making landfall on the peninsula. Winds of up to 35 meters per second can derail trains, and cars and large rocks can be toppled when the wind exceeds 40 meters per second.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org