Typhoon Khanun made landfall in South Korea on Thursday and was expected to traverse the Korean Peninsula slowly over the next two days, bringing torrential rains and powerful winds to a region already experiencing an unusually wet and deadly storm season.
As preparation for the typhoon, more than a hundred flights were canceled, schools in several cities switched to remote learning, ships were returned to ports, more than 10,000 people evacuated their homes and officials warned residents of the danger of landslides and floods nationwide.
“The typhoon’s slow movement is expected to cause a lot of damage,” President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Wednesday night.
The typhoon made landfall on Geoje Island, off the southeast coast, on Thursday at 9:20 a.m. local time, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. Forecasts show that the eye of the storm is likely to pass over the greater Seoul area, home to more than half of the country’s population, on Thursday night, before barreling into North Korea.
South Korean meteorologists said that Khanun was advancing north-northwest at about 14 miles per hour on Thursday. Because of its relatively slow pace, rain clouds have lingered, resulting in substantial precipitation. Parts of South Korea were expected to record about 20 inches of rain on Thursday.
Khanun had maximum sustained winds of 63 m.p.h., with gusts of 81 m.p.h., in South Korea on Thursday morning, the United States military’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii said. On the five-category wind scale that U.S. meteorologists use to measure hurricanes, Khanun would count as a tropical storm. Its winds are expected to weaken gradually as it traverses land.
South Korea has already been battered by an unusually harsh monsoon season. Last month, at least 47 people were killed, and 35 others were injured by nearly three weeks of some of the heaviest monsoon rains in years. Fourteen of the dead had been trapped in a flooded highway underpass.
Other East Asian countries have also had a deadly wet season. In Japan, at least six people died in Kyushu after the island was hit by what officials called “the heaviest rain ever experienced” in the region. An earlier typhoon, Doksuri, left at least 33 people dead in Beijing last week.
Last week, Khanun left at least two people dead, 100 others injured and thousands of households without power in Okinawa, Japan, the country’s southernmost prefecture. At the time, the storm was moving northwest toward China, but over the weekend it charted a zigzag path over Japan’s southern islands, until it doglegged north on Tuesday.
As the typhoon approached Japan and South Korea, both countries issued landslide and flood warnings and evacuation orders to residents. In South Korea, tens of thousands of teenagers who had gathered for the 25th World Scout Jamboree, and who had already been dealing with a brutal heat wave, finished evacuating their campsite on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the storm skirted past Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s main islands, with its clouds covering the entire island. More than a hundred flights to and from the island and parts of a high-speed railway network there were suspended. The storm also left 18,000 households without power.