Strong typhoon hits south-east China

Typhoon Kaemi struck the south-east coast of China on Tuesday, sparking the evacuation of more than 500 000 people in an area still reeling from a tropical storm that claimed more than 600 lives.

The typhoon—which first passed over Taiwan, causing widespread disruption to daily life but not enormous damage—struck mainland China’s Fujian province at 3.50pm local time, the official Xinhua news agency said.

State television showed footage of torrential rains lashing Fuzhou, a major city in Fujian, as workers struggled to fasten power cables and make other preparations for the onslaught of the typhoon.

With the storm packing winds of up to 120kph as it approached, more than 430 000 people were evacuated from Fujian, while another 80 000 were moved from their homes in neighbouring Zhejiang province.

Kaemi, which means “ant” in Korean, pounded Taiwan with strong winds and heavy rain after making landfall there late on Monday, leaving four people slightly injured when the bus they were in was hit by falling rocks.

The typhoon also forced the cancellation of flights in Taiwan, disrupted road traffic, knocked out power for thousands of residents and forced some offices to close.

Kaemi had earlier brushed past the Philippines, causing heavy rain there, with schools closed and more than 2 600 people evacuated in and around the capital, Manila, on Tuesday due to heavy flooding.

A total of 435 000 people were evacuated in Fujian, including those working in fish farms on the sea, other fishermen and residents in low-lying areas, Xinhua news agency said.

About 44 000 fishing boats were ordered to return to harbour by Tuesday, while flights from Xiamen city have been postponed or cancelled.

About 3 000 armed police equipped with speedboats were also deployed to conduct rescue and relief operations if necessary, Xinhua said.

Local authorities were advised to monitor the safety of people living in makeshift shelters at coal mines and in mountainous areas and to boost patrols along reservoirs and dams in preparation for flooding.

So far, Fujian province has prepared 12 000 tents, 50 000 quilts, 80 000 items of clothing and a five-day supply of food for 300 000 people, Xinhua said.

Fujian was still trying to cope with the impact of Tropical Storm Bilis, which struck mainland China on July 14, killing at least 43 people in the province.

Zhejiang, which did not suffer too badly from Bilis, was preparing for a much tougher time with Kaemi, Xinhua said.

Neighbouring Guangdong province to the south, where 106 people were killed in Bilis, was also making preparations for strong winds and heavy rain, even though it was not expected to be directly hit by Kaemi.

Bilis killed at least 612 people in southern, eastern and central China, with 208 still missing, according to the latest figures released by the government on Monday.

China’s east coast is regularly hit by storms and typhoons in the summer, but the number of fatalities, missing people and economic losses are “much greater” this year than in 2005, officials said over the weekend.

The United Nations’s panel on climate change has long held that rising temperatures would result in more severe rain storms in south and central China and drought in the north.

In a separate development during a brutal period of weather for north Asia, the International Red Cross said at least 121 people had been killed and another 127 were missing in North Korea following heavy storms in mid-July.

Nearly 17 000 families had been left homeless in five North Korean provinces with rain totally or partially destroying 23 400 houses, the Red Cross said.—Sapa-AFP

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