A tourist sits in the rain on Sept. 4, 2022 in Shanghai, China as Typhoon Hinnamnor approaches.
Yin Liqin/China News Service via Getty Images
September 5, 2022 2:52 AM EDT

South Korea’s weather agency warned there could be casualties as the nation prepares for the most powerful storm in its history to make landfall early Tuesday.

Oil refiners to chemical operations and the nation’s oldest nuclear power plant began taking precautions with Super Typhoon Hinnamnor expected to hammer the resort island of Jeju and the key industrial city of Ulsan on the country’s southeast coast after disrupting ports and air traffic across China and Japan.

“We’re now entering a phase where we have to minimize casualties,” Han Sang Un, the chief forecaster at Korea Meteorological Administration, said during a briefing Monday, urging residents of southern coastal areas to remain indoors, rather than carry out maintenance to prepare for the storm’s arrival.

“It’s a massive typhoon with a 400-kilometer (248.5 miles) radius, which is big enough to cover Seoul to Busan. Most regions in Korea will experience intense rain and wind,” he said. The typhoon is likely to impact Jeju at about 1 a.m. local time Tuesday, and southern coastal cities at about 7 a.m., according to the administration.

Run rates of three reactors at the Kori Nuclear Power Plant were lowered to less than 30% to prepare for the storm, while liquefied natural gas traders said they expected delays to some shipments to avoid the impact of the storm.

South Korea’s biggest oil refiner SK Innovation Co. suspended crude vessels from entering its Ulsan port and is working on securing backup power supply at the plant, a company spokesman said. GS Caltex Corp. evacuated ships to a safety zone, and LG Chem Ltd. is operating under an emergency response plan with strengthened safety monitoring of its plants in Yeosu and Ulsan.

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State-owned Korea Electric Power Corp. was taking measures to ensure a stable supply of electricity. Subsidiary Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. lowered output at the Kori nuclear plant preemptively to guard against any abrupt disruptions if reactors are directly impacted by Hinnamnor.

The storm, which is forecast to be even more destructive in South Korea than Typhoon Sarah in 1959, was heading north-northeast at about 17 kilometers per hour, some 300 kilometers south-southwest off the coast of Jeju as of noon Seoul time, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. Hinnamnor is currently packing sustained winds of about 127 miles per hour with gusts as as much as 155 miles an hour, according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

President Yoon Suk Yeol said the government will stay on its toes to protect the lives and safety of citizens, while the country’s Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said there is a concern that the worsening weather may impact consumer prices at a time when inflation remains high.

Hinnamnor has already disrupted port operations, airline services and schools across Asia since developing last month. Shanghai’s major container port of Yangshan was preparing to resume terminal operations after an earlier halt, while South Korea’s Busan and Ulsan ports have closed. Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. canceled more than 170 domestic flights for Monday and Tuesday, and some airline arrivals and departures in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa were also scrapped. Some schools in both South Korea and China will be closed for safety reasons.

South Korea’s top steelmaker Posco Holdings Inc. is considering a partial closure of its plant in Pohang and shipbuilders, including Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., were debating whether to halt production, the companies said Monday.

Almost 200 residents in coastal areas of Busan, the nation’s second most populous city, were asked Monday to evacuate to shelters, while stores at Marine City in the Haeundae beach district were told to temporarily close.

With assistance from Kevin Varley and Heejin Kim

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