Typhoon plows into China; thousands evacuated

AFP-JIJI

Typhoon Fitow barrelled into China’s east coast early Monday, packing winds of more than 200 kph after hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated, state media reported.

At least two people were reported killed, both near Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Parts of Zhejiang, which neighbors the commercial hub of Shanghai, saw nearly 29 cm of rain over 17 hours from Sunday through early Monday, while areas in Fujian to the south saw up to 16 cm, the official China News Service said.

In the hard-hit Cangnan County in Wenzhou, more than 1,200 homes collapsed and damage amounted to hundreds of millions of yuan, China National Radio said.

One of the victims, 55-year-old Ni Wenlin, died “after strong wind blew him off a hill” late Sunday, Xinhua said, citing municipal flood control authorities.

In Fujian the typhoon broke electricity poles in half, leaving power lines on the ground, and bent iron road signs out of shape, CNR reported.

In the coastal city of Ningde, a village leader told the Beijing Times that huge waves had damaged a 200-hectare seaweed farm, which nearly 100 families depended on for their livelihood.

The typhoon “broke the bamboo poles holding the seaweed in place,” said Lin Fangqin.

The storm is expected to move northwest but “weaken quickly”, Xinhua said Monday, citing the National Meteorological Center (NMC).

Authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people and issued the country’s highest alert Sunday as Fitow approached the mainland.

The NMC issued a red alert for the storm, which was packing winds of up to 151 kph late Sunday night as it moved toward the coast.

Winds rose to 201 kph in parts of Wenzhou, Xinhua reported later, citing local flood control authorities.

Zhejiang has so far evacuated more than 574,000 people, while in Fujian, 177,000 have been displaced, Xinhua said.

Two port workers in Wenzhou are missing and may have fallen into the sea, the agency added.

Zhejiang Gov. Li Qiang urged local authorities to increase inspections of dams and reservoirs as well as safety checks of chemical plants and other important facilities, Xinhua reported.

The storm also forced the suspension of bullet train services in several cities in Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, Xinhua said.

Wenzhou’s airport cancelled 27 flights Sunday, the agency said.

Xinhua quoted the weather center as saying it is unusual for a typhoon to come ashore in China’s southeast during October, at the end of the storm season.

Chinese maritime authorities also issued red alerts, warning of storm tides and waves, with fishermen urged to return to port

Japan also braced for another storm — Typhoon Danas — which hit the Okinawan islands Monday morning.