Government declares affected areas a disaster zone

South Korea has been left reeling after the ravages of Typhoon Maemi, which has caused at least 96 deaths and damage to property worth some U.S. $1.2 billion, RFA's Korean service reports.

"We are going to designate the whole nation as a special disaster zone," home affairs ministry official Kim Doo-Kwan said, detailing a government recovery plan that allocates funding to those who have lost homes or farmland.

Typhoon Maemi did its worst damage in the southern part of the country, especially in Kyungsang Province, where it killed 61 people. Nationwide, the death toll was reported at 96, but a further 25 people were still unaccounted for.

The tropical cyclone affected around 18,000 hectares of farmland and damaged 2,461 buildings, South Korea's anti-disaster center reported.

Some roads and railroads were damaged or cut off by landslides related to the the heavy rains.

Clean-up work was beginning Monday, with villagers, civil servants, and soldiers pooling resources to clean up debris. About 850 police and 3,600 soldiers with shovels helped remove sludge from homes and streets.

Maemi brought winds in its train of 215 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, crumpled giant container cranes, threw an evacuated ocean liner onto a beach, sank scores of vessels, and plunged more than a million homes into darkness.

Huge cranes that crashed down during the storm still lay across some roads in the southern port city of Pusan, where streets along the shore were covered in seaweed and wreckage.

In many of the affected areas, volunteers cooked meals by the roadside for soldiers sent to help with the clean-up.

"The basement of my house is still full of water and it'll take more than 10 days to drain," said Bae Joo-hong, 32, a resident of Pusan.

Workers at an industrial complex were busy washing away mud while port workers worried about when they would get back to their jobs. Many people said they needed help.

"All the dishes and kitchen utensils have been swept away and I have nothing to reopen my shop with," said Bae Jung-keun, 50, who owns a Japanese restaurant.

Some analysts estimate that the havoc caused by Maemi to South Korea's industrial infrastructure, agricultural sector, and logistics support could make the country's 3 percent economic growth forecast difficult to reach this year.


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