Post #4 – Don’t miss to look up the severe storm warnings! – Typhoon Chaba
In my native language, Romanian, there is a saying that when you go from one bad situation into another, you go “from a lake into a well” … This is how I felt when I met Typhoon Chaba in October last year, just a few days after leaving my home in hurricane-prone South Florida. It did not even occur to me to look up severe storms in the area. It was October after all, the month with the best weather to travel to South Korea. Not this time…
Arriving in Busan
As soon as I landed in Seoul, I moved on to Seoul Train Station to board the KTX speed train to Busan. With a bit of luck I made it before midnight to my hotel and grabbed a cool beer at the bar. I was steps away from Haeundae Beach and totally happy. Next seven days were going to be filled with Busan One Asia Festival concerts and fairs, outings with friends… just pure traveling bliss, to culminate with the opening day of Busan Film Festival, one of Asia’s finest.
Typhoon Chaba was on its way and I was clueless, not unlike the rest of Busan, who was out and about as usual. In Florida, when a storm approaches, we go into prep mode: board all glass windows, stock up on gas, groceries, batteries and flashlights, and so forth. Busan was un-phased.
Typhon Chaba Hits
And then it came. Overnight. From my hotel room I could see a sliver of a view directly toward the beach. It was black and roaring. I closed my window and went back to rest. The picture will clear up in the morning, I thought. It did, and it revealed the damages.
It was slightly raining still when I crossed the road, passed a small supermarket and a coffee shop, then a small garden area and reached the boardwalk. It was total devastation, sand and debris everywhere. The boardwalk was torn, stairs were collapsed, and the beach was filled with lumber. Still to this day I don’t quite know where it all came from, but I assume it was brought in from neighboring areas with the waves. There were some people roaming the beach in disbelief.
The buildings were sturdy in that area so not many felt the actual impact. In Florida, we live in poorly constructed homes. When hurricanes pass us, we have to anchor down. The older the homes, the better; back in the days people built homes to withstand hurricanes. Busan fared well in that respect. The most affected areas were the fishermen’s businesses at the market, the restaurants and coffee shops right on the beach, beach erosion, and the temporary structures that were in the typhoon’s path, such as the Busan Film Festival tents on the beach. The film festival was scheduled for next day. They did not look up the weather advisories either, it seemed.
At the small park section I saw one man all alone, with a broom, sweeping the floor. It was like David fighting Goliath. A few hours later I returned and David had won. A good part of the garden was free of sand. What impressed me the most that day was not the destruction. I had seen much worse in Miami after hurricane Andrew. I was impressed by how diligently each person did their part to move things along. How fast it got better. How disciplined.
Jagalchi Fish Market
The day after Typhoon Chaba I took a double-decker to go to the Jagalchi Fish Market. I was able to see the damages in other parts of the city. The storm had affected the rich and the poor alike. Fancy water-front buildings were flooded, but my heart went out to the fishermen and women who make a living at the market with small restaurants and fish stands.
I roamed along the outdoor part of the market and saw them rescuing the remains of their belongings from water and mud.
Everyone labored in silence. Mostly women, since men were probably out at sea. They just silently cleaned, mopped, recovered, washed things… their tenacity of survival is admirable. Having lived in more hot-blooded areas of the world where people lament and complain a lot, this scene was tragically sad, humbling and beautifully poetic at the same time. I hope these images do their willpower justice, their strength, their peacefulness. One can only admire the Korean people.