Fri, Aug 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

China evacuates 1.5 million as super typhoon arrives

AFP , BEIJING

Storm-ravaged southeast China was hit by one of its strongest typhoons in decades yesterday, forcing the evacuation of more than 1.5 million people and bringing the region to a standstill.

Typhoon Saomai, bringing winds of over 216kph and torrential rain, made landfall in the eastern province of Zhejiang just to the south of Shanghai at 5:25pm.

"It is the strongest typhoon to have landed in southeast China in 50 years," the official Xinhua news agency quoted Zhejiang Communist Party chief Xi Jinping (習近平) as saying.

Other provincial officials warned that Saomai appeared to be more powerful than Typhoon Rananim, which struck in August 2004 and killed 164 people in Zhejiang, Xinhua said.

Television footage showed huge waves slamming against the coast.

In Zhejiang, 989,900 people were evacuated while in Fujian Province immediately to the south another 569,000 people had been forced from their homes, the agency said.

It quoted Zhejiang forecasters as saying Wenzhou, a port city of more than 1 million people, would be under a "head-on" attack.

Wenzhou municipal authorities issued an emergency notice early yesterday, ordering all businesses to immediately cease operations and make proper preparations for the onslaught.

More than 34,000 ships in Zhejiang had returned to port before the typhoon approached.

Another 10,000 ships and 35,282 fishermen based in Fujian had returned to harbor by Wednesday evening, while outdoor activities in all 26,800 schools in the province were suspended yesterday, according to Xinhua.

Fujian's Changle airport canceled 25 flights due to the typhoon, Xinhua said, adding that several ferry services were also canceled.

As much as 250mm of rain was expected to be dumped on Fujian over the next few days, Xinhua said, citing provincial observatory and government officials.

In Hong Kong, authorities canceled or delayed 17 flights to Taiwan as torrential rains and strong winds swept parts of the nation.

Saomai, named after the Vietnamese word for the planet Venus, closely followed Prapiroon, a typhoon that made landfall last week in southeast China and killed at least 80 people.

State media said on Wednesday that natural disasters killed 987 people, left another 310 missing and caused 68.8 billion yuan (US$8.6 billion dollars) in economic losses across China last month.

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