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S.Korean markets hit after $1-billion typhoon
( 2003-09-15 10:35) (Agencies)

Shares in some of South Korea's top exporters plunged on Monday when financial markets opened for the first time since the country's most powerful typhoon killed at least 87 people and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage.

Rescue workers hunted for 28 people still missing three days after typhoon Maemi hit the south of the country on Friday night in the middle of the five-day "Chusok" thanksgiving holiday, twisting giant shipyard cranes, damaging crops and flooding buildings.

Thousands of homes were still without electricity on Monday.

"Rescue and repair work is going on round the clock with soldiers, police personnel and others helping residents," Seo Jung-pyo, an official at the National Disaster Prevention and Countermeasures Headquarters, told Reuters.

Financial markets resumed trading, providing the first chance for them to give their verdict on the cost to the Asia's fourth-largest economy, which entered its first recession since the 1997-98 financial crisis in the second quarter.

The stock market opened lower and government bond prices rose.

Shares in the world's biggest shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries Co and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard plunged because the typhoon damaged vessels they were building for the oil industry.

The government was scrambling to assess whether the typhoon could hit growth prospects for the third quarter and the year.

South Korean government bond prices surged as investors favored fixed assets over stocks amid uncertainties over the U.S. economy as well as the domestic one after the typhoon.


A special parliament committee will discuss financial and other support measures for the recovery, local media said.

Twenty-eight people were missing and about 70,000 houses remained without electricity in the south, the national disaster office said.

It said most of the deaths were the result of electrocution, landslides and drowning. The capital, Seoul, in the north of the country, was unaffected.

Seo said the cost of damage, put at 1.13 trillion won ($965.8 million) as of early Monday, could rise as more damage reports were being received from residents. Typhoon Maemi, or "cicada" in Korean, tore into southern parts of the country on Friday, packing record winds of up to 134 mph and carving a swathe of destruction before heading out to sea some seven hours later.

Up to 453 mm (18 inches) of rain was dumped across some areas and about 25,000 people had to be evacuated. A small number were still camped out in public buildings.

Typhoons often strike South Korea at this time of year. The country's worst storm, Typhoon Sara, killed 849 people in 1959.

The government said over the weekend it would allocate 1.4 trillion won in disaster relief. A government agency said insurance claims had reached more than 156 billion won.

The typhoon mauled South Korea's main port of Pusan, one of Asia's busiest, knocking down some 1,000-toncranes and tossing boats against each other. The port was operating at about 80 percent capacity on Monday, a government official said.

More than 17,000 hectares (42,000 acres) of farm land was flooded, just ahead of the harvest. That could push this year's rice prices higher, although the country runs a rice surplus.

The storm temporarily halted four nuclear power plants and forced the temporary shutdown of some secondary units belonging to SK Corp, the country's biggest oil refiner. ($1=1170.0 won)

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