Typhoon Damrey slammed into Hainan island yesterday, killing at least two people, collapsing houses and sweeping away rice, rubber and banana crops.
Packing wind speeds of up to 198km, Damrey made landfall north of Hainan's Wanning City at 4am, the official Xinhua news agency said. It was the island's strongest typhoon since September 1973, the agency said.
By midday it was scouring the island's southern portion, heading west toward Vietnam at 18kph, the Hong Kong Observatory reported on its Web site.
Both victims were women who died in Wanning as they were preparing to flee, according to Xinhua.
Zhong Yueqin, 62, was attempting to retrieve a television set from inside her house when it collapsed on top of her, while Li Ruju, 42, was killed by a falling wall while closing up her house, it said.
Hotels in the Yalong Bay resort district were largely empty, with lingering tourists barricading themselves in their rooms, said hotel receptionists answering phones.
The Sheraton and Marriott resorts were operating on skeleton staff, with many employees unable to get to work, the receptionists said.
"There aren't many people coming in," said a receptionist at the Sheraton, who refused to give her name because she was not authorized to comment.
One of China's poorest regions, Hainan has in recent years marketed itself as "China's Hawaii," cashing in on its tropical climate, pristine beaches and the colorful cultures of hill tribes living in its mountainous center.
The typhoon also knocked out Hainan's electrical grid, cutting power to most of the island's 8 million people, Xinhua said. Rice fields were flooded, and fruit and rubber trees sheered off by the winds. Strong winds and rain were lashing areas as far away as Hong Kong, about 600km to the northeast.