August 10, 2006

“Super typhoon” slams into southeast China

By Ben Blanchard

NINGDE, China (Reuters) - A "super typhoon," the strongest
to hit China in half a century, slammed into the coast on
Thursday killing at least two people, injuring more than 80 and
forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

Typhoon Saomai, one of three storms to hit East Asia in the
past few days, made landfall in the southeastern province of
Zhejiang, hitting Cangnan county just after a state of
emergency was declared, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

It destroyed more than 1,000 houses, plunged almost all the
county into darkness and knocked out nearly half of local
communication links.

At least 30 farmers were trapped in collapsed houses in the
Cangnan town of Jinxiang. A press car carrying four was also
trapped, it said.

"So far, about 20,000 soldiers and militiamen have been
deployed on the eastern border to boost rescue and disaster
relief efforts," Xinhua said.

The storm, the eighth to hit China this year, injured more
than 80 people, the report said, quoting local sources.

"The worst of it now seems to have passed, but we are
without t mains power and have to rely on our generator," hotel
worker Jiao Qing told Reuters in the city of Ningde, not far
from Cangnan.

"It was quite scary, with all the wind and rain, but we're
used to it."

Police closed off the main coastal highway forcing traffic
onto narrow mountain roads, where drivers weaved around
landslides and dodged fallen branches as rain lashed down and
lightning lit up a leaden sky.

Neighboring Fujian province reported two deaths in the city
of Fuding and 12 people missing, Xinhua said.

Some 20,000 hectares (77 sq miles) of rice fields had been
inundated after 30 mm (12 inches) of rain fell in the space of
just one hour, Xinhua said.

Storm tracker Tropical Storm Risk
( initially graded Saomai a category
5 "super" typhoon -- its highest category -- but reduced that
to category 4 after it came ashore.


It saw Saomai weakening quickly to a tropical storm.

The typhoon landed with a wind velocity of 216 km (135 mph)
per hour, and was more powerful than a typhoon that hit
Zhejiang in August 1956 and triggered a tsunami that killed
more than 3,000, Xinhua said.

The greater Wenzhou area, which includes Cangnan and is
home to 7.4 million people, has declared a state of emergency
and authorities have blocked highways into the worst-affected

Factories, shops and offices had been ordered to stop all
activities "unrelated to battling the typhoon," state media

Residents reinforced windows and doors against the storm
and stockpiled drinking water and food, while those with
flimsier homes headed to schools, theatres and stadiums to take

Wenzhou airport was closed and hundreds of passengers were
stranded, an airport manager said.

Xinhua reported that Zhejiang authorities had already
evacuated nearly 1 million people, with another 569,000 people
moved in the Neighboring province of Fujian.

Tropical storm Bilis killed more than 600 in China last
month and typhoon Prapiroon killed about 80 last week.

Tropical storm Bopha fizzled to the south of Taiwan this
week and another veered toward the east of Japan.

(Additional reporting by Nir Elias, Guo Shipeng and Emma