The government pledged yesterday to punish agencies found to have responded poorly to Typhoon Maemi, a storm that devastated the country's southern provinces, leaving 117 dead or missing.
"We will examine if Masan city's evacuation of its citizens was timely, and if delays in rebuilding facilities destroyed in previous typhoons resulted in the same areas in Gangwon province sustaining damage this time around," said Prime Minister Goh Kun in a meeting held yesterday.
At least 12 people were killed in Masan after local authorities failed to evacuate an underground shopping complex, Haeun Plaza, before it flooded on Saturday.
Mr. Goh also asked related government agencies to cooperate closely so that afflicted regions could soon be designated "Special Disaster Zones" in order to receive additional emergency aid.
"With damages expected to exceed 1.5 trillion won [$1.23 billion] from the typhoon, we are seriously considering designating all afflicted areas as Special Disaster Zones," Kim Doo-gwan, minister of government administration and home affairs, told the National Assembly yesterday.
According to the Countermeasures Against Natural Disasters Act, if damages rise to more than 1.5 trillion won, the government can designate larger areas as disaster zones.
As a result, smaller communities would qualify for special disaster relief totaling about 150 percent more than regular disaster relief.
The National Headquarters for Disaster Relief said that as of yesterday, 117 were either dead or missing, with 71 of those casualties being concentrated in the southern port city of Busan and the larger South Gyeong-sang provincial area.
Storm drives up crop prices
In the wake of Typhoon Maemi, the prices of many farm products have risen sharply. Coming just before the harvest begins, the storm caused severe damage to radish, cabbage and pepper crops, the main ingredients for Korea's pickled vegetables.
"Due to the typhoon, supplies were affected and prices are ranging at a higher end," a market official said. Half the radish crop planted in Gochang and Buan, North Jeolla province, sustained damage, as well as 40 percent of crops on Jeju island.
A head of cabbage costs 1,800 won ($1.5), up 300 to 400 won from last week at one market. Ten kilograms (22 pounds) of green peppers were sold at 57,700 won, an increase of 8,000 won. With fruit blown off the trees by the wind, the price of persimmons rose by 10 to 15 percent at stores.
Heavy rain this year had already left many farm products in poor shape.
by Lee Sang-il