Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Beijing launches search for lost police

DEVASTATING DAMAGE The death toll from Typhoon Longwang's sweep through southeastern China has risen to 15, not including the 59 officers who were swept away

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) ordered an all-out effort to find 59 paramilitary police officers who were swept away when a typhoon hit the country's coast, though hope was fading that they would be found alive, state media reported yesterday.

Typhoon Longwang slammed into southeastern China late on Sunday night with winds of 119kph. It was downgraded on Monday to a tropical storm, but not before raining havoc on low-lying coastal areas.

The 59 paramilitary police officers, members of the armed forces in charge of domestic security, were in a training school barracks in Fujian Province when the violent floods hit Sunday night, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Two buildings at the Fuzhou Command School of Armed Police were washed away in a mudslide.

With rumors swirling that the death toll could be higher, local media at the scene said they had been instructed not to report the incident, with details only being released through Xinhua.

The school said none of the missing had been found but refused to comment further.

"We haven't received any instructions to release information on our relief work," said a staffer in the academy's head office.

Confirmed deaths -- not including the missing soldiers -- stood at 15, Fujian's anti-flood headquarters reported on its Web site.

Chinese authorities had evacuated more than 500,000 people from coastal areas ahead of the storm, forcing boats to return to harbor and closing tourist sites.

As Typhoon Longwang churned inland, it destroyed 5,400 homes in Fujian and wiped out 12,500 hectares of crops, Xinhua reported.

It was raining lightly in parts of Fujian yesterday, and top wind speeds had slowed to 72kph, the local weather bureau said.

State television said life was returning to normal in Fujian, and rail services out of Fuzhou had resumed.

Xinhua said 730,000 people in all had been evacuated to protect them from the 19th typhoon to hit China this year, in the provinces of Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong.

Meanwhile, in the central province of Hubei, authorities evacuated about 24,000 people from along the banks of a tributary of the Yangtze River, in what Xinhua said was the worst flooding since 1981.

More heavy rain is expected to fall in the next two days in Hubei and the local government is on alert for further flooding along the Hanjiang River, Xinhua said in an overnight report seen yesterday.

"The flood is still under control though it still seems severe," Cai Qihua, deputy director of the Yangtze flood control headquarters, was quoted as saying.

There was no mention of any casualties.

The China Daily said three people have been killed by floods which have swept through central Shaanxi Province since late last month.

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