Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Typhoon Saomai kills 104 people in China

WORST SINCE 1956 190 people are still missing after the storm, and 1.7 million were forced to evacuate in the provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian


Workers in southern China shoveled large piles of mud and debris off the streets as officials assessed the losses yesterday after the strongest typhoon in 50 years killed 104 people and left 190 missing.

Typhoon Saomai bore down on Zhejiang and Fujian provinces on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of 1.7 million people and destroying tens of thousands of homes, according to official figures.

The massive storm has lost some of its strength, but state television CCTV yesterday quoted a top official urging people not to become complacent, with torrential rains and gale-force winds forecast over the weekend.

The ongoing wet weather raised the risk of further landslides and flooding.

"We need to continue to put as top priority the task of guaranteeing people's safety," said Civil Affairs Ministry Deputy Minister Dou Yupei.

"We urge people not to move back into damaged and dangerous houses [to avoid] new casualties."

An estimated 54,000 homes were destroyed, while 122,700 hectares of farmland were rendered useless from the high winds and floods brought by Saomai, according to the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Economic losses in the two hard-hit provinces totalled 11.25 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion), the headquarters said on its Web site.

The Chinese Red Cross had by Friday earmarked 2.68 million yuan in urgent aid and collected 1.8 million yuan in disaster relief items like tents, towels, clothes and medicine to be sent to badly hit areas, China Daily said.

Dou urged local authorities to do their utmost to provide people with assistance as they tried to get their lives back together and rebuild damaged or destroyed homes and businesses.

In Zhejiang Province, officials have dispatched 30,000 tons of water disinfectants to avoid the spread of water-borne diseases.

More than 200,000 people in one of the province's biggest cities, Wenzhou, lacked clean drinking water, the state-run Xinhua news agency said on Friday.

Authorities in Fujian Province sent thousands of boxes of instant noodles and bottled water to its residents.

Streets were still blocked by downed trees and electricity poles, television footage showed, but some vegetable stands had reopened and residents were seen buying produce while standing in flooded streets with water up to their calves.

Among the deaths, 87 people were killed and 52 others left missing in the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou, while Fujian Province suffered 17 deaths, with another 138 people reported missing, state media said.

In the township of Jinxiang located on the outskirts of Wenzhou, 43 bodies, including those of eight children, were found in the debris of collapsed houses where they had sought shelter from the storm, Xinhua said.

"The wind was so strong that whole windows were slammed into rooms," an official in Jinxiang, who declined to give her name, was quoted by China Daily as saying yesterday.

"Many people here are taking shelter in schools and factories as their houses have been destroyed."

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