S. Korea bases report minor typhoon damages
By FRANKLIN FISHER AND JOSEPH GIORDONO | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 21, 2004
PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Typhoon Megi swept across southern South Korea on Thursday but U.S. military officials reported only minor problems at installations around the peninsula.
Five South Koreans were reported dead or missing.
At remote Camp Mu Juk, a heavily wooded U.S. Marine Corps logistics base, Marines were told to avoid any “unnecessary work” outdoors Thursday because of the risk of trees or other objects being tossed about by high winds. “We’re kind of out in the middle of nowhere here with a lot of nature around us, a lot of trees,” said 1st Lt. Charles Chambers, Mu Juk’s officer-in-charge.
Until about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Chambers said, typhoon warnings led to restricting the Marines to quarters in the camp, which is near Pohang on South Korea’s east coast.
“We confined everybody to their quarters except for food service personnel and minimal security forces,” he said. “Marines and sailors that we have here were allowed to go from their room in the barracks to the chow hall and back.”
By around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Chambers lifted the restriction to quarters but said base personnel were to focus on work they could do indoors.
“The main precaution we were taking was just keeping people out of the weather, keeping them indoors,” he said.
At the Army’s Camp Hialeah in Pusan, several buildings lost electric power Wednesday morning but no other outages were reported at installations within the Army’s Area IV district, said Kevin B. Jackson, chief spokesman for the Area IV Support Activity at Camp Henry in Taegu.
The unit activated its emergency operations center abou<NO1>n<NO>t 3 p.m. Wednesday and expected it to stay in operation until the storm had left South Korea, Jackson said Thursday.
Public Works department and Korean Service Corps laborers also were put on standby in case the weather created emergencies at Area IV installations, Jackson said. The workers removed debris from drainage ditches at the installations, he said.
At the Walker Army Heliport in Taegu, crews moved aircraft off the flight line into hangars.
Some 550 troops deployed for exercise Ulchi Focus Lens moved from tents to regular buildings at three installations, camps Hialeah and Henry, and in Waegwan, Camp Carroll, Jackson said. The troops were to return to their tent areas once the storm had passed, he said.
About 1,000 sandbags were added to flood-prone spots, Jackson said, adding to 5,000 sandbags already “pre-positioned” at Area IV installations.
At Chinhae Naval Base in lower South Korea, Typhoon Megi downed eight small trees, damaged tiles on two roofs and did “some very minor damage” to the perimeter fence, said Cmdr. Frank Martin, Fleet Activities Chinhae’s commanding officer.
The Navy also took down three tents that had been set up for personnel on base to take part in a military exercise, and moved the personnel into the base gym.
Martin voiced relief that Megi had been far less severe than Typhoon Maemi, which ravaged South Korea in September, causing $4.5 million in damage to U.S. military installations in lower South Korea. Maemi, ranked as the most powerful typhoon in South Korean history, was responsible for more than 100 deaths.
“I was here for Typhoon Maemi,” Martin said, adding that “the storm we had today was not even a third as strong.” Maemi packed winds of more than 100 knots with gusts up to 130 knots, he said; Megi brought winds of 25 to 35 knots with gusts approaching 40.
But, Martin said, “The memory of Typhoon Maemi made us take the storm very seriously.”
By Thursday afternoon, the storm had passed over South Korea and was tracking northeast over the Sea of Japan. It forced about 2,500 people to evacuate their homes in South Korea. Some 90 domestic flights were canceled, and rail service was disrupted.
Areas in the southern peninsula reported six to eight inches of rain from late Wednesday through early Thursday.
One 47-year-old man was killed while working near a dam and a 65-year-old woman who was walking on a bridge over a brook was swept away by the flood, said Kang Chung, an emergency official. A 69-year-old man also was killed, but no details were immediately available.
Missing were a 74-year-old man apparently swept away while working on a farm in Naju city, about 175 miles south of Seoul, and a 42-year-old man, Kang said.
All the casualties were in southwestern Cholla province.
Early Thursday morning, the storm also took a swipe at Sasebo Naval Base in southern Japan.
The Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Detachment issued a gale warning about 1 a.m. on Wednesday and extended the warning until about 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
A power outage occurred in main base housing Thursday morning as the gale’s gusts reached 69 mph about 3:30 a.m., forecasters said.
“Outages were short-term and confined to the main base. There are no reported injuries,” said base spokesman Charles T. Howard. “There was some minor wind-related damage last night and this morning.”
A piece of roofing from a gazebo by the Bayside Food Court was blown off and a door to Sasebo’s galley “got away from someone entering and hit the wall, breaking all the glass.”
The storm passed the Sasebo area about 93 miles to the west-northwest about 4:20 a.m.
Sasebo’s NPMOD downgraded the gale warning to a small craft warning about 1:30 p.m. as the gale weakened to winds from 23 to 29 mph with occasional gusts up to 40 mph.
— Greg Tyler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.