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3,000 Koreans stranded on Guam due to Typhoon Mawar

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A tree knocked down by high winds and precipitation brought by Typhoon Mawar on Guam [AFP/YONHAP]
A tree knocked down by high winds and precipitation brought by Typhoon Mawar on Guam [AFP/YONHAP]

Some 3,000 Koreans have been left stranded on Guam after Typhoon Mawar battered the U.S. Pacific territory on Wednesday, damaging airport runways, toppling trees and cutting off power and water supplies.

No casualties or serious injuries have been reported so far.

The isolated Koreans, mostly tourists, will likely not be able to return home before Tuesday.

The A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam announced that airline services at the airport aren’t expected to resume until then.

“Recovery on the impact of Typhoon Mawar is well underway at the Guam International Airport,” the island’s airport authority said in a statement on Friday.

“If all systems are operational, services are anticipated to resume, at the earliest, on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.”

Sources at Korean Air and Jin Air said both airlines were planning to add additional flights when the closed runways reopen.

Korea’s national weather agency said Friday that Mawar could creep up the peninsula sometime next week. But even so, the strength of the typhoon is predicted to drastically wane by the time it approaches the country, said officials at the Korea Metrological Administration (KMA).

With all flights from Guam to Korea suddenly canceled, many Koreans who couldn’t book extra nights at a hotel had to camp out in the lobby or share rooms with other tourists.

A 40-year-old man who wished to be identified only by his surname Lee said he decided to give up his hotel room to a pregnant woman and her husband upon learning they couldn’t find a place to stay.

Tourists scramble to book extra nights on the Pacific island of Guam as Typhoon Mawar brings howling winds and intense rainfall, leaving them stranded. [JOONGANG ILBO]
Tourists scramble to book extra nights on the Pacific island of Guam as Typhoon Mawar brings howling winds and intense rainfall, leaving them stranded. [JOONGANG ILBO]

Lee, who had gone to Guam for a business trip, was able to shelter at a friend’s house on the island.

“I’m going to be a father in a month,” Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo. “I couldn’t stand watching pregnant women worry about the lack of iron supplements. My friend and I are scouring through hotel lobbies to see if there are any young children or pregnant women who want to sleep in our living room.”

Forty-eight-year-old Ahn, who’s been living on the island for 20 years running a guest house, said he was offering free rooms to pregnant women or anyone with an illness.

“It’s the least that a Korean expat can do,” Ahn said.

An official at Korea’s Foreign Ministry told reporters that the government was communicating with Guam’s tourism authority and expat groups to establish temporary shelters and provide transportation expenses for any Korean tourist who needed to go to the hospital.

Korean travel agencies said they were discussing plans to offer up to 900,000 won ($680) in compensation per tourist.

As of Friday at 9 a.m., Mawar was centered about 630 kilometers (391 miles) northwest of Guam, traveling west at 22 kilometers per hour (14 miles per hour).

After it knocked down trees and power lines across much of Guam on Wednesday, Mawar was upgraded to a super typhoon — the highest level for a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of at least 241 kilometers per hour — as it moved into open water.

According to the KMA, Mawar is predicted to head north from waters off the Philippines from Tuesday morning, making its way toward the Korean Peninsula.

The storm, however, will lose speed as it makes the journey, possibly reaching as low as 6 kilometers per hour, much lower than when it impacted Guam.

Where the typhoon will go after Tuesday remains unclear.

The KMA said in a statement that Mawar could travel near waters off southern Japan, but stressed that the forecast could most likely change.

BY SEO-IN CHOI , SUNG-EUN LEE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]