Bodies drift at sea after typhoon in China

The death toll from China’s strongest typhoon in five decades jumped to 295 on Tuesday and was expected to climb higher as scores of bodies of fishermen and sailors were found at sea, a state news agency reported.

At least 59 bodies were found on Monday in waters off Fuding, a port on the south-eastern coast, raising the city’s death toll in Typhoon Saomai to at least 178, with 94 people missing, the Xinhua news agency said.

Saomai sank more than 1 000 ships and wrecked more than 50 000 houses when it slammed into China’s south-east on Thursday with winds of up to 270kph.

China has mobilised thousands of soldiers to help rebuild damaged roads, power lines and water supplies.

Most of those killed in Fuding died ”when the super-strong typhoon broke the moorings on their ships which had sought shelter in the harbour”, Xinhua said.

Fuding suffered at least 2,5-billion yuan ($312-million) in damage, mainly due to lost fishing boats and catches of fish, Xinhua said.

Saomai blacked out parts of Fuding and five other cities in Fujian province. More than 1,6-million people fled their homes in Fujian and the neighbouring coastal province of Zhejiang.

The death toll stood at 206 in Fujian, 87 in Zhejiang and two in Jiangxi, an inland province that was hit by flooding and landslides as Saomai moved west across China.

The China Daily newspaper said on Tuesday that 52 people were missing in Zhejiang.

Saomai, the Vietnamese name for the planet Venus, was the eighth major storm to hit China during an unusually violent typhoon season. The region was still recovering from Tropical Storm Bilis, which killed more than 600 people last month.

Saomai killed at least two people in the Philippines and dumped rain on Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The Chinese weather bureau said Saomai was the most powerful typhoon since its record-keeping began in 1949, though not the deadliest.

In 1956, a typhoon with winds up to 234kph killed 4 900 people in Zhejiang. — Sapa-AP

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