One million flee homes as storm batters China

BEIJING, July 20 (Reuters) - Heavy rain and winds forced more than one million people from their homes in southeast China on Wednesday and killed at least one, state media said, but the mainland was spared the battering that hit Taiwan.

State media showed residents in the rice-growing provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian bracing against the heavy wind, which one reporter described as like sand pelting his face.

In the worst-hit area, Zhejiang's coastal Cangnan county, power supply was sporadic, water cut off and floodwaters reached shoulder height after torrential rains.

At least 300 people in Cangnan's Guangmei area holed up in a primary school on high ground only to be surrounded by floodwaters, residents said.

"A wall of our school has collapsed because of the rising floodwater," a school official surnamed Ye told Reuters by telephone. Securing food for those inside was the biggest problem, he said.

A university student interning at the school said government relief supplies had yet to reach them.

"I have seen two boats coming to bring food and carry some people away. But they were not sent by the government," the student, Cheng Jiajia, said by telephone.

"Everyone staying here was offered a bag of biscuits and bottled water last night, but the food was only sufficient for two meals," she said.

A landslide of mud and rock caused by the torrential rain blocked roads in the area.

The death toll from Typhoon Haitang in Taiwan meanwhile rose to 10, with another three missing after the storm shut schools, offices and financial markets on Monday.


In the far south of the island, 3,000 tourists were stranded as heavy rain and floodwaters damaged a bridge and cut off road links, local media said. The government planned to send chartered jets to bring the tourists out, reports said.

Rescue workers there battled strong winds and high seas to help crew members of a cargo ship stranded near southern Kaohsiung, and a National Fire Agency spokesman said all the crew members had been removed from the partially sunk vessel.

But a rescue boat overturned in the process, throwing its passengers overboard into the choppy waves, local television footage showed. The fire agency spokesman said one crew member drowned and another was missing.

Back on the mainland, the official Xinhua news agency said more than 2,500 houses were destroyed but many of them had been evacuated, preventing casualties.

The authorities were perhaps taking a lesson from last year's Typhoon Rananim, many of whose victims died when their houses collapsed. That storm killed 164 people and caused more than $2 billion in economic losses.

Haitang also killed more than 30,000 domestic animals and damaged some 16,000 hectares of crops, Xinhua said.

Typhoons are common in Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and southern China during a season that begins in early summer and runs through late autumn.

In separate storms that hit the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, 13 were killed and seven missing after three days of heavy rain that damaged houses, crops and roads, Xinhua said. (Additional reporting by Richard Dobson in Taipei)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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