Super typhoon slams into China
By Nir Elias
LUOYUAN, China (Reuters) – Super Typhoon Saomai, the strongest to threaten China in over 50 years, slammed into the southeast coast on Thursday killing at least two people, injuring over 80 and forcing more than 1.5 million from their homes.
Saomai, one of three storms to hit East Asia in the past few days, made landfall in Zhejiang province at 0925 GMT, hitting Cangnan county just after officials there declared a state of emergency, Xinhua news agency said.
It has battered down over 1,000 houses, plunged almost all the county into darkness and knocked out nearly half of local communication links. Over 80 people are injured, the report said, quoting local sources.
Neighboring Fujian province, also affected, has reported two deaths in the city of Fuding and 12 people missing at sea after two Taiwanese boats capsized at sea near the city’s harbor and a Fujianese fishing boat hit a reef, Xinhua said.
Storm tracker Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com) had graded Saomai a category five “super” typhoon — its highest category — but reduced that to category 4 once it came ashore.
It 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.
Saomai had not caused a similar surge, but doused Cangnan with 30 mm (12 inches) of rain in an hour, inundating rice fields, and would move further inland at about 20 km per hour (12 mph).
MILLIONS AT RISK
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 areas.
Factories, shops and offices had been ordered to stop all activities “unrelated to battling the typhoon.”
Residents have 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 shelter.
State television showed lines of makeshift beds lined up beneath blackboards, with temporary refugees eating nearby.
Wenzhou airport had closed and hundreds of passengers were stranded because of canceled flights, one 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, as heavy rain, strong winds and a high tide hit the area.
Authorities moved 100,000 people in Cangnan alone and declared a state of emergency at 0900 GMT as Saomai brought winds as high as 184 kph over land, Xinhua said.
Much of south China has been repeatedly battered by typhoons and tropical storms this year. Hundreds have been killed by rainstorms, mudslides and floods.
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.
Typhoons and tropical storms are common each year in Taiwan, southeast China and the Philippines between July and October.
(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng in Beijing)