Typhoon hits China as over 1.5 million evacuated
BEIJING, Aug 10, 2006 (AFP) - Storm-ravaged southeast China was hit by one of its strongest typhoons in decades on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of over 1.5 million people and bringing the region to a standstill.
Typhoon Saomai, bringing winds of over 216 kilometers (135 miles) per hour and torrential rain, landed in the eastern province of Zhejiang just to the south of Shanghai at 5:25 pm (0925 GMT).
"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 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 one million people, would be under a "head-on" attack.
Wenzhou municipal authorities issued an emergency notice early Thursday, ordering all businesses immediately to 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 on Thursday, according to Xinhua.
Fujian's Changle airport cancelled 25 flights due to the typhoon, Xinhua said, adding that several ferry services were also cancelled.
As much as 25 centimeters (10 inches) 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 island.
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 nearly 987 people, left another 310 missing and caused 68.8 billion yuan (8.6 billion dollars) in economic losses across China in July.
Natural disasters in China for all of this year had killed 1,699 people and left another 415 missing, the nation's Red Cross Society said in a report carried by Xinhua on Thursday.
The disasters have impacted on another 300 million people and led to more than 130 billion yuan in economic losses, the Red Cross said.
It said more than five million houses and 32 million hectares (79 million acres) of farmland had been destroyed nationwide, adding its figures had been verified by the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
Meanwhile Bopha, forecast to be the ninth tropical storm or typhoon to hit China this year, was following close behind Saomai.
Two storms moving together can enhance each other's strength, according to meteorologists.
Copyright (c) 2006 Agence France-Presse
Received by NewsEdge Insight: 08/10/2006 07:34:49
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