South Korea was Monday bracing for the arrival of major typhoon Bolaven with a main port and ferry routes closed, classes cancelled and officials put on high alert.

Typhoon Bolaven - one of the most powerful storms in the region in decades - was churning Monday towards the peninsula after lashing Japan's Okinawa island with heavy rain and wind and injuring at least five people.

The typhoon, with winds of up to 173 kilometers (107 miles) per hour, was expected to hit the South from late Monday to early Wednesday before reaching North Korea, Seoul's weather service said.

In the southern port city of Busan authorities Monday banned all ships from entering the docks until the storm passes. Large ships were advised to move elsewhere out of the storm's path.

The transportation ministry said 68 of the country's 87 sea ferry routes had been cancelled. Airport authorities were checking runways and other facilities.

A state disaster relief board raised its alert to the highest level, meaning more officials will be on watch.

Some 140 flights on Monday and Tuesday, mostly to or from the southern resort island of Jeju, were cancelled.

President Lee Myung-Bak called for "thorough preparation" to minimize damage and prevent casualties.

In Seoul and the western port city of Incheon, all schools were ordered closed Tuesday.

The typhoon will dump as much as 500 millimeters (20 inches) of rain in some parts of the nation from Monday to Wednesday and bring strong winds and high tides, the weather service said.

Storm alerts will be issued in most parts of the country by Monday night.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]