CHINA / National

400,000 evacuated as Prapiroon slams S. China
Updated: 2006-08-04 10:33

Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated in southern China as Typhoon Prapiroon slammed into the mainland, pounding an already battered area with more heavy rains and winds, the Xinhua News Agency repported.

Prapiroon made landfall Thursday evening along a stretch of coastal Guangdong province, including the cities of Yangjiang and Dianbai, Xinhua said. It said the storm was moving inland northwest at a speed of 15 to 20 kph (9 to 12 mph).

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Stormy weather was forecast from Thursday to Saturday for the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan and Hainan, China's southernmost island and a popular tourist destination.

The area was lashed last month by Tropical Storm Bilis, which killed more than 600 people in flooding and landslides.

Authorities evacuated about 400,000 residents in low-lying areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan, which lies about 600 kilometers (370 miles) southwest of Hong Kong in the South China Sea, Xinhua said. Ferry and railway services linking Hainan to the mainland were also suspended.

Some 84,000 people were forced to flee their homes in Guangxi, Xinhua said. It didn't give a breakdown of the evacuations in Guangdong and Hainan.

More than 62,000 boats returned to port in the three provinces, and rescue teams were put on alert for possible floods and landslides, Xinhua said.

Prapiroon, which killed six people in the Philippines when it was still a tropical storm, injured at least one person in Hong Kong on Wednesday when empty shipping containers were toppled by high winds at a container terminal.

Several vessels ran aground and ferry services were suspended. Hong Kong's airport said hundreds of flights were delayed, canceled or redirected.

The typhoon season started early in China this year, where storms have already killed more than 1,460 people, mainly in the densely populated southeastern provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan and Jiangxi.

Chinese officials estimate more than 1 million houses have been damaged and millions of hectares (acres) of farmland and forests destroyed.

Prapiroon, named after the Thai rain god, is the region's eighth major storm of the season. It comes in the wake of last week's Typhoon Kaemi, which killed at least 35 people in China and left dozens missing in flooding and landslides.