September 24, 2008

Typhoon Hagupit Wreaks Havoc in South China

Text of report in English by official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency)

ZHANJIANG, Guangdong, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) - Typhoon Hagupit, packing torrential rain and hurricane force winds, forced the closure of schools in at least two south China cities, halted flights and left many urban streets deserted after making landfall in Guangdong Province early on Wednesday.

The 14th strong typhoon of the year landed in Dianbai County in the city of Maoming at 6:45 a.m. with winds of more than 200 km per hour in its eye, the Guangdong Provincial Meteorological Bureau said.

Strong gales uprooted many trees and billboards in Maoming when the storm landed. City authorities said one fishing boat sank off Dianbai County, but no casualties were reported.

The worst typhoon to hit Guangdong in more than a decade closed all schools and kindergartens in the coastal city of Zhanjiang, where gales and rain left most streets deserted even in the morning rush hour.

"Hagupit has brought strong gales sweeping all the nine counties and districts in Zhanjiang at 110 km per hour," said Peng Wenzhen, deputy chief of the city's water resources bureau.

Many roadside stores and restaurants covered their gates and windows with wood or steel bars overnight.

The high wind destroyed a gas station along the Zhanjiang section of State Highway 325 and a factory under construction. The local government said no casualties were reported in either accident.

But fallen trees disrupted traffic on the state highway on Wednesday morning and local farmers had huge losses as the gales destroyed their banana trees on either side of the highway.

Meanwhile, heavy rain since Tuesday night has swollen five of the city's 800 reservoirs. "We have sluiced water from the five reservoirs and are watching closely as the rainstorm persists," said Peng.

Hagupit has triggered a once-in-a-century storm tide - a high flood period in which water levels can rise to more than 5 meters above the normal tide - in several coastal cities including Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhongshan, Zhuhai, Jiangmen and Yangjiang.

The water level at Dashi hydrological station in the provincial capital Guangzhou was 2.73 meters on Wednesday morning, a 100-year record, and it showed no sign of subsiding by midday.

Li Jianji, an expert with the provincial astronomical society, said the storm tide was likely to last for a day.

The provincial meteorological bureau said the typhoon was trailing off while moving northwest at 25 km per hour. But rainstorms were expected to continue through Thursday.

The province recalled more than 50,000 vessels with almost 200,000 fishermen and crew members on Tuesday.

A team of 130 police officers struggled four hours early on Wednesday to save 50 villagers who were stranded by floods that overflowed a 200-meter embankment in Zhuhai.

Total rain in Zhuhai's Doumen town, one of the worst-hit towns by the storm, reached 194.6 mm in the 22 hours ending at 10 a.m. Wednesday, the local meteorological bureau said.

Strong gales and heavy rain also wreaked havoc in the southernmost island province of Hainan, and the provincial capital Haikou issued a notice late on Tuesday, ordering all schools and kindergartens to be closed on Wednesday.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday, 33 flights had been cancelled at Meilan Airport in Haikou, affecting nearly 2,700 passengers. The airport remained closed at 10 a.m.

The airport in Shenzhen also cancelled most domestic flights after 7 p.m. on Tuesday and encouraged passengers to postpone or cancel their trips.

In the adjacent Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, local governments were keeping close watch for secondary disasters.

But Hagupit's landfall in Guangdong seemingly eased the rain in the southeastern Fujian Province, meteorologists said.

Affected by the typhoon, most parts of the province were drenched by heavy rain until early Wednesday, with the maximum precipitation hitting 89 mm in the 22 hours ending at 6 a.m. in some coastal counties.

The torrential rain weakened to a drizzle in most cities on Wednesday morning and the provincial capital Fuzhou has cleared up.

Hagupit is the second typhoon in a week to affect Taiwan, Fujian and Guangdong, after typhoon Sinlaku lashed the region last week.

Originally published by Xinhua news agency, Beijing, in English 0725 24 Sep 08.

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