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Bolaven leaves at least 16 dead as it plows past Korean Peninsula

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:05 AM EDT, Wed August 29, 2012
  • NEW: The powerful storm kills people in the sea and on land in South Korea
  • Bolaven weakens to tropical storm before hitting North Korea, China
  • The search is still on for missing Chinese fishermen
  • The storm cuts power in hundreds of thousands of households in South Korea

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Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Bolaven, once a massive typhoon, left at least 16 people dead in South Korea after pummeling the country with heavy wind and rain as it moved along its coast, the authorities said Wednesday.

The storm had weakened as it traveled north over the cooler waters of the Yellow Sea before making landfall in North Korea and China on Tuesday.

Six Chinese fishermen died and nine remained missing after two boats capsized in stormy waters near Jeju Island, off the southern tip of the South Korean mainland, the maritime police said. The search for those still unaccounted for continued Wednesday.

The South Korean Central Disaster Relief Headquarters said that another 10 people had been killed in other accidents caused by the storm and that two people had been injured.

Riding out typhoon in Okinawa
Typhoon makes landfall in Taiwan

Forecasters predicted Bolaven would move north-northeast through North Korea and decrease in strength over land Wednesday.

The powerful storm disrupted transport, cut off power and damaged property in South Korea. Hundreds of thousands of households lost power during the storm's passage, the disaster agency said. By Wednesday, 34,000 remained without electricity.

The storm prompted the cancellation of scores of flights, the suspension of nearly 100 ferry routes and the temporary closure of 27 roads, according to the agency. Sixteen roads were still closed on Wednesday morning.

Bolaven lashed North Korea with heavy wind and rain, the reclusive state's official Korean Central News Agency said in a report early Wednesday. It gave detailed data on wind strength, rainfall and storm surges but didn't provide information on the damage caused.

Okinawa, meanwhile, emerged relatively unscathed Monday after the typhoon buffeted it with maximum sustained winds near its center of 185 kph (115 mph), according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which monitors storms in the region.

That wind strength put Bolaven in the "super typhoon" category at the time. And with a cloud field of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), it was 20 times larger than Okinawa's length.

Okinawa, which is in an area of the western Pacific Ocean where typhoons are frequent, avoided the kind of destruction that some other storms have caused in East Asia this summer.

Five people were injured on the island, the local authorities said, and 549 residents took shelter in public buildings to avoid potential damage to their homes. About 17,500 households lost electricity as the storm damaged power lines.

Storm chaser James Reynolds was on the northwestern coast of the island during the worst of the typhoon.

"Like the rest of the population we all just kind of holed up in the strong and sturdy buildings which make up Okinawa," he said Monday.

The infrastructure on Okinawa is designed to withstand violent storms. "Everything's made of solid concrete," Reynolds said.

The damage was also limited because Bolaven didn't bring winds as powerful as initially feared, said Morichiyo Ohshiro, an official from the Okinawa Prefecture Disaster Prevention and Crisis Management Division.

Typhoon Tembin, which made landfall in southern Taiwan a few days ago, has circled back around and is now also on a path taking it toward the Koreas. Smaller than Bolaven, it is expected to bring more rain to the Korean Peninsula starting Wednesday evening.

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CNN's Paula Hancocks, Yoko Wakatsuki and Ralitsa Vassileva; CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri; and journalist Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report.

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