August 4, 2006

Prapiroon kills 18 as it lashes south China

BEIJING (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Prapiroon killed 18
people as it lashed south China with heavy rain and winds on
Friday after forcing the evacuation of more than half a million
and snarling transport links across the region.

China Central Television cited the Ministry of Civil
Affairs as saying the deaths had occurred in the southern
provinces of Guangdong and Hainan and the neighboring region of

Another seven were missing, the official broadcaster said.
It gave no further details on the deaths.

The official Xinhua news agency said earlier that five
people were killed in house collapses in Guangdong, where the
storm made landfall at typhoon strength late on Thursday.

Another person died in a landslide in Guangxi, where
Prapiroon's brunt moved into on Friday but continued to weaken,
Xinhua said.

More than 800 houses collapsed and 337 hectares of crops
were destroyed in Guangxi, bringing direct economic losses
totaling 23.8 million yuan ($2.98 million), it said.

Staff workers at the airport of the regional capital
Nanning said many flights were canceled or delayed on Friday.

More than 530,000 people across Guangdong, Guangxi and the
island province of Hainan, where heavy rains are likely to
continue through Saturday, fled their homes ahead of Prapiroon,
which earlier killed six people in the Philippines.

State television showed pictures of huge trees uprooted by
the roadside in the Guangdong city of Shenzhen.

Tens of thousands of boats in the areas returned to harbor
ahead of the storm.

On Friday, the last 12 of 68 people aboard a barge off the
Guangdong coast near the city of Yangjiang were brought to
safety after being stranded at sea overnight as high winds
hampered rescue efforts, Xinhua said.

And 40 vessels carrying around 100 fishermen returned to
port in Guangxi on Friday after spending a night at sea as
strong winds and rough seas prevented them from reaching the
shore, an official said by telephone.

The financial hub of Hong Kong escaped a direct hit from
Prapiroon, which means "God of rain" in Thai, but strong winds
caused chaos at the airport.

More than 600 flights in Hong Kong were affected, and the
airport was choked for a second day with thousands of stranded
and tired passengers.

Rail links and ferry services between Hong Kong and the
mainland were also suspended, Xinhua said.

Prapiroon was the sixth storm of the season to batter
southern China, which is still reeling from tropical storms
Bilis and Kaemi. Bilis killed more than 600 people when it
struck in July, and was quickly followed by Kaemi, which
claimed at least 30 lives.