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Yeonpyeong residents continue evacuation of island

Posted November. 25, 2010 11:33,   


Residents of Yeonpyeong Island continued to evacuate their island amid a power outage Wednesday for fear of another artillery attack by North Korea.

Some 1,500 residents who evacuated are confirmed to have gone on fishing boats and government and maritime police vessels to do so since the attack ended. Of the estimated 1,780 residents in 930 households on Yeonpyeong, 160 or so remain on the island.

Since they are expected to move to Incheon or other safe places soon, military personnel will likely be the only ones staying on Yeonpyeong.

“North Korea’s shelling attack on Yeonpyeong residents can be seen as the start of a war,” said resident Kim Ji-gwon, 53. “Residents who’ve experienced the fear of death have a surging sense of a war crisis, so more and more people will leave the island.”

○ Afraid to return

Around 1:17 p.m. Wednesday, some 340 residents arrived at a maritime police pier after spending a day in hell on their devastated island. They were trembling as if undergoing lingering shock, with some complaining of extreme fatigue and lethargy.

“I heard explosions and saw smoke billowing,” a 71-year-old man said with his eyes welling up with tears. “I thought it was a military exercise but had to leave the island after hearing an evacuation order. I couldn’t bring my clothes and money but I don’t want to go back.”

The pier was crowded as the evacuees, their families, ambulances and other vehicles swarmed the facility.

Among residents who arrived in Incheon, six injured people were taken to Gil Hospital in the city’s southeastern district. No one was seriously injured, but most of them complained about the psychological trauma from the shelling.

A 66-year-old man had a shell splinter graze his forehead while driving a car. “A shell fell right in front of me as I was driving a car carrying seedlings to plant. A splinter that flew from one side grazed my forehead,” he said.

Another resident in his 40s had his eardrums ruptured. A hospital representative said the impact of a falling shell damaged his inner ears, and other residents who suffered concussions and bone fractures also received treatment at the hospital.

“All of the injured are suffering from extreme post-traumatic stress rather than external wounds,” said Yang Hyeok-jun, a doctor at the hospital.

○ Homes reduced to ashes

At Nambu-ri, a small town on Yeonpyeong leveled by the attack, a 73-year-old resident returned to his village after spending the night inside a candle-lit bomb shelter. “Neighbors had friendly chats just yesterday morning in this village. Now everything has been turned into ashes,” he said.

The roof of his house was blown away while the inside was nearly burned to ashes, exposing the structural frames. A neighboring house was completely gone, leaving just piles of concrete rubble and broken bricks.

“About 10 houses were destroyed or burned by the shelling, but there were no human casualties because most of the residents went out to work,” he said. “I think I’ll have to stay on the mainland this winter because it’ll take a long time to rebuild the house.”

○ Restoration and relief work initiated

Restoration work began after the fires caused by the shelling were put out. According to the Ongjin County Office in Incheon, around 70 percent of forests and fields on Yeonpyeong were burned, with 21 houses and warehouses and eight public buildings destroyed or razed.

The Incheon city government sent 22 fire engines and ambulances along with firefighters and paramedics to the island to put out the fires and begin recovery work.

The Korea Electric Power Corp. is restoring power facilities to alleviate the large-scale blackout.

Around 2,000 boxes of emergency relief materials arrived on the island, while more than 3,500 relief kits and food items were provided for residents.

kchwang@donga.com jks@donga.com