China braces for Typhoon as Taiwan cleans up

  • World
  • Tuesday, 19 Jul 2005

By John Ruwitch

TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Typhoon Haitang swirled towards China's southeast coast on Tuesday after killing up to six people in Taiwan, injuring 30 and wreaking damage estimated at US$41 million. 

But as southeastern China prepared for the worst, the once-fierce storm was losing some of its power, packing maximum winds of 119 km/h (74 mph) and gusts of up to 155 km/h, making it a moderate typhoon, said Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau. 

In the Chinese rice-growing provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, more than 850,000 people were evacuated from coastal areas, state media said. 

Storm cloud hangs over Hangzhou City July 19, 2005. Typhoon Haitang swirled towards China's southeast coast on Tuesday after killing up to six people in Taiwan, injuring 30 and wreaking damage estimated at US$41 million. (REUTERS/China Newsphoto)

Five thousand armed police were mobilised and reservoirs and dikes were under surveillance, as heavy rains caused a landslide in Zhejiang. No casualties were reported, state television said. 

There was no electricity in eight towns of Zhejiang, state television said. 

Authorities in Fujian and Zhejiang had also ordered back to port some 17,000 fishing and merchant ships with a total of more than 300,000 aboard. 

Ferry services and some flights in the area were cancelled as residents prepared for the onslaught. 

"I stored some water and food after I heard the news," the China Daily quoted Huang Liying, a resident of the Fujian capital Fuzhou, as saying. 

"Who knows whether power and water supplies will be cut off when the typhoon comes?" she said. 

Xinhua reported that the authorities in Fuzhou had sent 1 million mobile phone text messages to residents, warning them of the typhoon. 

In Taiwan, business resumed on Tuesday with workers clearing away uprooted trees, street signs and billboards toppled by Haitang's lashing winds and heavy rains. The storm had shut offices, schools and financial markets on Monday. 

More than 98,000 households remained without power. 

The official death toll from the typhoon rose to four in Taiwan, and the National Fire Agency said it was still investigating the cause of death of another two bodies found floating in water. One more person was listed as missing. 

Non-stop torrential rain through the night sparked flooding in Taiwan's south, with streets in some areas filled with muddy water up to waist height, forcing residents to wade through with children on their backs, television footage showed. 

Weather forecasters said torrential rain would continue to pummel Taiwan through to Wednesday, and warned residents to watch out for flash floods and landslides. 

The Council of Agriculture estimated damage from the storm at T$1.3 billion (US$41 million). 

Typhoons gather strength from warm sea waters and tend to dissipate after making landfall. They frequently hit Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and southern China during a season that starts in early summer and lasts until late autumn. 

In 2001, one of Taiwan's deadliest years for storms, Typhoon Toraji killed 200 people. In China, last year's Typhoon Rananim killed 164 and caused more than $2 billion in economic losses. 

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