Typhoon Bolaven Devastates Asia

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is "The World". It's official. Isaac is no longer a tropic storm; it's now a hurricane and is expected to reach the Louisiana coast early tomorrow. President Obama, today, urged gulf coast residents to take the storm seriously. "Now is not the time to tempt fate," Obama says. They know that all to well in North and South Korea, both of which were battered by Typhoon Bolaven today. Nine Chinese fishermen were killed when waves smashed their vessels against the South Korean coast. The BBC's Lucy Williamson is in the South Korean capital, Seoul, where the streets today were deserted.

Lucy Williamson: We've had the wind whistling through the cracks in the building here in the BBC Bureau listening to it, piercing and high pitch, coming through. It makes me not want to go out I can tell you. So it has been pretty bad. It's still pretty bad. Not as bad as it has been for some of the sailors off-shore though.

Werman: Right. So tell us what you know about that dramatic rescue involving those Chinese fishermen.

Williamson: They were the first casualties of the typhoon. They were Chinese fishermen sitting in the their boats off the southern coast of Korea when the typhoon came in. The typhoon capsized their boats. We have pictures of them clinging to their capsized boats as the rescuers came in with ropes in those huge waves to try and rescue them. South Korea has been very prepared for this typhoon. It knew it was coming, it's a regular typhoon area. It's a developed country, it has money, it has resources, and there have been some quite considerable preparations gone into this and I think the rescue was simply part of that alert and that high alert that people have been under here. I mean schools have been closed throughout the countries. The main roads to the airport have been closed. Flights have been cancelled. The army, in fact, was recalled from a military exercise it was carrying out with American soldiers here until the storm had passed. So clearly people taking it very seriously.

Werman: Right. And some very basic things that were upset, over one and a half million homes in South Korea lost power from Typhoon Bolaven?

Williamson: Certainly, hundreds of thousands have lost power, some homes have been destroyed. The four people who we know at the moment were killed on the land here were mainly killed by falling objects, collapsing homes, things like that. Streetlights have been out, as I say, roads have been closed, and actually, apart from the schools, lots of businesses simply haven't opened today. So I was walking around the center of Seoul here and apart from all the branches on the streets and the not so many cars on the roads, lots of the buildings just taped up with tape on the windows and very few people around.

Werman: And the typhoon headed to North Korea after doing all that damage in South Korea. North Korea was still recovering from flooding and a drought. What type of damage did Typhoon Bolaven wreak on North Korea?

Williamson: You mentioned the problems they've been having there. The last couple of months, North Korea has had very heavy rains and flooding which have destroyed crop lands they say, infrastructure, homes, lot of people homeless, the World Food Programme carrying out emergency programs there as a result, and now, having got through one crisis, they've now got this typhoon traveling into their territory. North Korean state media have put out a very simple bulletin just saying that the storm has been approaching, but we haven't heard anything yet about the extent of the impact there. And, of course, now it's dark here, it may be that we wont know until tomorrow morning exactly what kind of harm it will do in the north.

Werman: Finally, Lucy, Americans are closely watching Hurricane Isaac's progress in the Gulf of Mexico. Can you tell us the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?

Williamson: Aha, a pop quiz, huh? As far as I understand it, a hurricane is an American storm and a typhoon is an Asian storm.

Werman: Thank you very much, Lucy. I appreciate your time.

Williamson: Thanks a lot.

Werman: By the way, you can see a great map visualizing the storm path of all typhoons and hurricanes since 1851. We've got that at theworld.org.