September 26, 2005

Typhoon kills 6 in China, heads for Vietnam

BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Vietnam scrambled on Monday
to evacuate nearly half a million people from the path of a
typhoon which killed six people as it swept across the southern
Chinese resort island of Hainan.

Typhoon Damrey plowed down the coast of Hainan, the
strongest storm to hit the tropical island in decades, forcing
the evacuation of more than 210,000 people.

Six people were killed under collapsed buildings or trees
felled by heavy winds on the island often referred to as
China's Hawaii, the China News service reported.

"Across (Hainan), more than 210,000 people were evacuated
to safety, including 60,000 fishermen," the report said, adding
some 15,000 ships had been called back to port.

Experts warned that rice and rubber crops could sustain
major damage.

The Vietnamese evacuees, mostly women, children and old
people, were being moved to more solid buildings, a government
official was quoted as saying.

The typhoon was the strongest to hit Hainan since 1973, Cai
Qinbao, deputy director of the Hainan Provincial Meteorological
Station, was quoted as saying.

The cancellation of dozens of flights left 5,000 people
stranded at the airport in the coastal city and provincial
capital of Haikou.

A Haikou official said power was cut to parts of the city
as well as other areas of Hainan.

"A night of wind and lashing rain left the streets of
Haikou piled with leaves and trash, with many big trees blown
over and electrical wires severed," the China News service

Winds reached up to 200 kph (125 mph), damaging more than
2,500 homes and snapping banana and coconut trees in two,
Xinhua news agency said.

In nearby Guangdong province, 16,000 people were evacuated
in Zhanjiang city, state television said, and a fisherman was
reported missing after three boats capsized in choppy seas.

At 0800 GMT, the west-moving typhoon was riding Hainan's
southwestern coast, about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of
Haikou, and headed for Vietnam, according to the Hong Kong

State forecasters in Vietnam said the storm was on course
to dump heavy rains on more than 10 northern and central
provinces and issued warnings for flash floods and landslides.

The typhoon should miss the Central Highlands coffee belt,
which lies further to the south. Vietnam is the world's
second-biggest coffee producer after Brazil.

Typhoons, known as hurricanes in the West, gather strength
from warm sea water and tend to dissipate after making

They frequently hit Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Hong
Kong and southern China during a season that lasts from early
summer to late autumn.

(Additional reporting by Ho Binh Minh in HANOI)