Typhoon threatens China, another heads for Guam

Report
from Reuters - AlertNet
Published on 04 Jul 2002
by Ruben Alabastro

MANILA, July 4 (Reuters) - A powerful typhoon named "God of Thunder" raged towards flood-stricken China on Thursday while another storm raced across the Pacific Ocean towards Guam and the Marianas islands after killing dozens on another tiny island.

Typhoon Rammasun, Thai for God of Thunder, was expected to brush the coast of China's Zhejiang province late on Thursday, packing powerful winds and heavy rain that would drench Shanghai, Chinese officials and state media said.

The second storm, Typhoon Chata'an was racing towards Guam and the Mariana islands in the western Pacific after triggering landslides in Micronesia's Chuuk coral lagoon, killing at least 39 people and injuring 100.

Chuuk disaster coordinator Erick Paul said the death toll could rise as 10 people were missing.

"I have no hope that they are still alive," he said by telephone from Chuuk's capital, Weno.

Earlier, Rammasun buffeted Okinawa and its neighbouring Japanese islands, drowning one U.S. Navy sailor while he was swimming. Anther person was missing.

Emergency workers in the Zhejiang city of Ningbo, 150 km (90 miles) south of Shanghai, evacuated coastal residents to higher ground and flights from Shanghai were delayed or cancelled.

"We began to evacuate people near the seaside on Thursday morning," said a flood control official in Ningbo.

JULY 4 CELEBRATIONS OFF

Residents on Guam island, a U.S. territory and home to a major military base 2,100 km (1,300 miles) east of the Philippines, cancelled July 4 Independence Day celebrations.

Guam's 150,000 residents boarded up windows, filled water containers and stocked up on supplies while heavily pregnant women were told by officials to take shelter in hospital as Chata'an approached the tiny island, which attracts nearly one million tourists a year from Japan.

Guam's weather office predicted the eye of Chata'an -- which means rainy day in the local Chamorro language -- would pass over the island of Rota, Guam's closest neighbour in the Marianas, around noon on Friday (0200 GMT).

Paul said sunny weather had returned to Chuuk state, home to around 65,000 people, but officials had not heard from outer islands battered by the typhoon.

"We tried to raise them on the emergency radio but they do not communicate. It's possible their antennae are down," he said.

Chuuk, a mangrove-lined lagoon around 2,800 km (1,700 miles) east of the Philippines, is the most populous area of Micronesia, a collection of 600 islands between Papua New Guinea and Japan.

STRONGEST IN YEARS

The eye of Typhoon Rammasun, one of the strongest typhoons to threaten China in the past few years, was expected to come within 200 km (125 miles) of China either late Thursday or early Friday, officials said. The typhoon was about 450 km (280 miles) southeast of Shanghai at 11 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Thursday.

"Meteorological reports say the typhoon is one of the biggest in recent years and we are making preparations to cut losses to a minimum," said the Ningbo official.

Rammasun was unlikely to have a big impact on flooding inland that has killed more than 600 people in recent weeks in China's worst deluges since 1998, officials said.

Zhejiang, which largely avoided the previous floods, was on high alert and could see some flooding as the storm carried winds accelerating up to 130 kph (80 mph), an official said.

Winds in Shanghai could gust to around 70 km per hour (40 mph) but the eye of the storm was expected to miss the city, experts said.

Officials said the typhoon posed little danger in flood-prone parts of neighbouring Jiangsu, where the swelling Yangtze River threatens to overflow in a replay of 1998, when deluges nationwide killed more than 4,000 people.

Rammasun spared Taiwan a direct hit but brought abundant rain to relieve the island's worst drought in decades. (With additional reporting by Jonathan Ansfield in Beijing, Lu Jianxin in Shanghai, Wang Feng in Beijing and Alice Hung in Taipei)

Reuters - AlertNet:



For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit www.trust.org/alertnet