Strongest typhoon to strike China in 50 years makes landfall, killing at least 30
BEIJING – The most powerful typhoon to hit China in five decades raged across its southeastern coast Thursday, capsizing ships and destroying homes after 1.5 million people evacuated. At least 30 people were killed and dozens were injured.At least 28 people were killed in Cangnan County in coastal Zhejiang province, where Saomai made landfall, the Xinhua News Agency said Friday. The government earlier reported two deaths in Fuding, a city in neighboring Fujian province. Xinhua didn’t say how the latest deaths occurred, but said 7,300 homes were destroyed.Officials said at least 80 people were injured and 19 reported missing across the region. The typhoon was also blamed for at least two deaths in the Philippines earlier.Torrential rains were forecast in the next three days as the typhoon churned inland across crowded areas where Tropical Storm Bilis killed more than 600 people last month.Saomai, with winds up to 135 mph, made landfall at the town of Mazhan in coastal Zhejiang province and was moving northwest at 12 mph, Xinhua said, citing weather officials.Eight Taiwanese sailors were missing after two ships capsized in a harbor in Fujian, while four Chinese were missing after their ship struck a reef, the agency reported. Seven others were reported missing in the Philippines after giant waves and heavy rains generated by the typhoon battered coastal villages, officials said.Saomai, dubbed a “super typhoon” by Chinese forecasters due to its huge size and high wind speeds, was the eighth major storm of this year’s unusually violent typhoon season. Saomai was the most powerful typhoon to hit China since the founding of the communist government in 1949, Xinhua said, citing the Zhejiang provincial weather bureau.Before the storm’s arrival, 990,000 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas of Zhejiang and 569,000 from the neighboring coastal province of Fujian, Xinhua said. It said a total of 70,000 ships had returned to port in the two provinces.The area is about 950 miles south of Beijing, the Chinese capital, which was not affected by the storm.In the Philippines, more than 200 houses built on stilts were destroyed and a child was killed and another was reported missing as waves up to 10 feet tall ravaged the coast of Bongao, the capital of southern Tawi-Tawi province, before dawn Wednesday, provincial Gov. Sadikul Sahali said.”There is floating debris everywhere,” Sahali said.At least six members of a family also were reported missing after their house was buried in a landslide on Sarangani island, part of southern Davao del Sur province, the Office of Civil Defense said.Elsewhere, a man was killed as big waves washed away about 200 shanties in seaside villages in Talisay city on central Cebu island early Wednesday, the civil defense office said.Saomai, named for the Vietnamese word for the planet Venus, passed across Japan’s Okinawa island group on Wednesday with winds up to 89 mph, prompting airlines to cancel 141 flights and affecting 24,000 passengers.China’s weather bureau had forecast unusually heavy typhoon action this summer, saying warmer than normal Pacific currents and weather patterns over Tibet would create bigger storms and draw them farther inland.Bilis triggered flooding and landslides as far inland as Hunan province, hundreds of miles from the coast.Most of the deaths happened in areas away from coastal communities that have elaborate dike networks and a long history of evacuating flood-prone areas.Typhoon Prapiroon lashed China’s southern coast last week, killing at least 80 people in floods and landslides in Guangdong province and neighboring Guangxi.Even as Saomai stormed ashore, Chinese forecasters were already closely watching Tropical Storm Bopha, which trailed behind it farther out in the Pacific. Bopha was about 110 miles southeast of Guangdong late Thursday and moving west with winds of 29 mph, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.
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