CHINA / National

Toll hits 111 from Typhoon Saomai
Updated: 2006-08-11 10:26

NINGDE - The strongest typhoon to strike China for half a century killed at least 111 people and left many others missing, according to the latest reports carried by the Xinhua news agency.

Typhoon Saomai tore into Cangnan County in eastern China's Zhejiang province on Thursday after authorities relocated 1 million people in the densely populated commercial province, Xinhua said.

But by Friday morning, Saomai had weakened into a tropical storm as it moved into Jiangxi province, which was bracing for heavy storms and flooding, Xinhua said.

Saomai, Vietnamese for "morning star", capsized boats and collapsed houses as it carved a swathe of destruction through southern China, following in the path of seven previous typhoons this season.

A total of 81 people were killed in Wenzhou area, which includes Cangnan, and 11 were missing there, the news agency reported.

Two people were also killed in Fuding in neighbouring Fujian province, where 620,000 people were evacuated. Eight Taiwanese sailors and four fishermen of the mainland reported missing earlier there had been rescued.

"Because transport and communications have been cut, the number and identity of the dead and missing is still being established," the agency said.

In Cangnan, 1,000 houses were blown over and 80 people were injured, with many telephone and power lines severed.

The typhoon landed with winds of 216 km (135 mph) per hour -- more powerful than a typhoon that hit Zhejiang in August 1956, triggering a storm surge that killed more than 3,000 people.

A highway to Cangnan was closed, and abandoned cars lay in ditches by the roadway in Ningde. The powerful winds snapped off the tops of trees along surrounding hills.

Tropical Storm Risk ( had graded Saomai a maximum-category 5 "super" typhoon, but reduced that to category 4 as it made landfall, the same category as Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the U.S. Gulf coast last year.

The greater Wenzhou area, which includes Cangnan and is home to 7.4 million people, declared a state of emergency. Wenzhou authorities said late on Thursday that economic losses to the area -- a trading and manufacturing centre -- could amount to 2.3 billion yuan ($288 million).

Tropical Storm Bopha is trailing behind it farther out in the Pacific in wake of Saomai.