Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Five die as Prapiroon hits China

CARNAGE Two men were crushed by walls, a woman was hit by a billboard and two others were killed by lightning as the storm swept over the southeast

AP , SHANGHAI

Pedestrians struggle with an umbrella in Hong Kong as Tropical Storm Prapiroon struck the city with strong wind and heavy rain on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Tropical Storm Prapiroon left five people dead in south China, official media reported yesterday, as high winds and heavy rain lashed an area where 400,000 people had earlier been evacuated.

All five were killed in Guangdong Province, where the storm made landfall late on Thursday while still a powerful typhoon, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Two men were crushed by walls blown down by the storm and a woman was hit by an advertising billboard that had come loose, according to Sina.com, a news Web site.

Two others were killed by lightning, said the official China News Service.

People who answered calls at Guangdong's flood control headquarters and Civil Affairs Bureau said they had no information about the deaths and were not authorized to speak to reporters. Calls to the provincial government spokesman's office rang unanswered.

The provincial government's Web site didn't mention the deaths, but said officials had sent 11 million mobile phone text messages to warn people of the storm's arrival -- standard procedure over the past year.

By late morning, Prapiroon's wind speed had dropped from typhoon level to tropical storm as it dumped rain on the Guangxi region on China's southern coast, the China Meteorological Administration said.

The storm's sustained wind speed slowed to 83km per hour, down from 118kph when it came ashore Thursday night, the agency said. The storm was expected to keep moving west or northwest at 13kph.

Stormy weather was forecast through today across the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan and Hainan, China's southernmost island and a popular tourist destination.

Authorities had evacuated about 400,000 residents in low-lying areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, about 600km southwest of Hong Kong in the South China Sea, Xinhua said.

Ferry services linking Hainan to the mainland were also suspended.

Some 84,000 people were forced to flee their homes in Guangxi, Xinhua said. It didn't give a breakdown of the evacuations in Guangdong and Hainan.

More than 62,000 boats returned to port in the three provinces, and rescue teams were put on alert, Xinhua said.

Prapiroon killed six people earlier as it passed across the Philippines, and one person in Hong Kong was injured on Wednesday when high winds toppled empty cargo containers at a shipping terminal.

Several vessels ran aground and ferry services were suspended.

Hong Kong's airport said hundreds of flights were diverted, delayed or canceled.

The typhoon season started early in China this year, where storms have already killed more than 1,460 people, mainly in the densely populated southeast.

Chinese officials estimate more than 1 million houses have been damaged and millions of hectares of farmland and forests destroyed.

Prapiroon, named after the Thai rain god, is the region's eighth major storm of the season.

It comes in the wake of last week's Typhoon Kaemi, which killed at least 35 people in China and left dozens missing in flooding and landslides.

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