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Storm to close schools in Korea, annual exercise suspended

Approaching Typhoon Bolaven taken from Ikei island Saturday late afternoon as the storm approached Okinawa.

SEOUL — All DODDS schools in South Korea will be closed Tuesday, and the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise has been temporarily suspended, U.S. military officials said Monday as Typhoon Bolaven approached the Korean peninsula after battering Okinawa.

Forecasters were expecting wind gusts in excess of 50 mph and as much as 12 inches of rain as the massive typhoon flirts with South Korea’s west coast. Bolaven lashed Okinawa with sustained winds of 63 mph and gusts of up to 92 mph Sunday and Monday, causing power outages and sporadic damage.

Services available at U.S. military bases up and down the Korean peninsula will be scaled back or canceled Tuesday. Department of Defense Dependents Schools were being shuttered as a precaution, spokesman Charly Hoff said.

“We’ll continue to monitor, assess and make updates regarding school status on Wednesday on our official Facebook page as more information becomes available,” he said.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise that began Aug. 20 was put on hold Monday night, officials said. The largely computer-based exercise, is one of two major U.S.-South Korean war games held on the peninsula each year, with more than 30,000 troops from both countries involved this year. It was scheduled to run until Friday.

“Based on the current weather outlook, we are pausing training related to Ulchi Freedom Guardian 2012 until conditions improve and are safe to resume exercise activities,” U.S. Forces Korea said in a release.

“The safety and security of our service members are critically important as we continue to monitor the situation,” the statement read.

While Okinawa wasn’t hit as hard as forecasters feared, some 60,000 residences and offices lost power off-base. More than two days of flights into and out of Naha International Airport, including Sunday’s entire slate, were canceled.

rabiroffj@pstripes.osd.mil

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