Packing winds up to 216 kms per hour, Typhoon Maemi crashed into South Korea's southern provinces, triggering landslides and flash floods.

Before heading back to the sea to exhaust its fury, the gale left behind a huge trail of destruction.

Emergency officials cautioned the final toll could jump further as communications gradually are restored with battered regions in the interiors.

The typhoon derailed trains, broke up ships, knocked off electric transmission lines and plunged 1.5 million people into darkness.

Battered and numbed, the authorities on Sunday mobilised 5000 soldiers to help relief operations. President Roh Moo-Hyun approved a special budget of $1.28 billion to aid recovery efforts.


The typhoon derailed trains, broke up ships, knocked off electric transmission lines and plunged 1.5 million people into darkness

Officials, however, said the task at hand was difficult and huge.

Damage

The typhoon caused damage estimated at $12.9 billion to power facilities.

"It will take several days to recover power transmission lines," a ministry official said.

Television footage showed a row of seaside restaurants in Busan destroyed by waves whipped up by the typhoon.

In cities and towns, the gale overturned cars and twisted electric poles, besides snapping power lines and uprooting trees. Flash floods washed away several roads.