Typhoon leaves 56 missing, forces evacuation of 47,000 in China

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Beijing_(dpa) _ Storms left 56 fishermen missing off southern China's Hainan island on Friday, as the approach of typhoon Neoguri forced the evacuation of at least 47,500 people, state media said.

A maritime rescue team set out at 11 am (0300 GMT) to look for the 56 missing fishermen after officials had lost contact since Thursday evening with three boats sheltering near a reef in the Xisha Archipelago in the South China Sea, the official Xinhua news agency said.

More than 80,000 fishermen on Hainan's 21,825 registered fishing boats had taken shelter at harbours or inland areas by Friday morning as the typhoon closed in, the agency quoted local officials as saying.

Another 47,500 local residents were being evacuated from vulnerable coastal areas of Hainan, with others evacuated in nearby Guangdong province, the agency said.

Neoguri was forecast to hit land between Hainan's coastal cities of Sanya and Wenchang late Friday night or early Saturday morning, it said.

About 180 millimetres of rain was forecast for southern Hainan and up to 90 millimetres for the rest of the island and parts of Guangdong.

Ferry services between the island and Guangdong were suspended but flights were still operating early Friday evening, the agency said.

At least 20,000 fishing boats in Guangdong had also returned to port before the typhoon hit, it said.

Nearby Hong Kong was also raised a storm alert on Friday.

Typhoon Neoguri is the second earliest typhoon to hit the area since detailed weather records began in 1946, the Hong Kong Observatory said. dpa bs jh

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