A website accused of fabricating news regarding the disappearance of 69 people, 63 of them employees of a large Internet company, during Typhoon Sepat has been closed by police in Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province.
An employee of www.dedewang.com surnamed Su confessed to making up the report and turned himself over to police. The website's owner, surnamed Xu, is still at large, police said.
The Fujian provincial government, meanwhile, has rejected the website's claim that the storm caused as many as 20 more deaths than the official toll.
By 8:30 pm yesterday, a total of 33 people had died and nine others were missing following the storm that hit Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Hunan provinces, local flood control headquarters reported yesterday.
"An investigation by government departments found that there were no casualties, injured or missing in Xiamen," Zhu Qing, a spokesman for the Fujian government, said yesterday at a press conference in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian.
"The online story triggered panic across Xiamen.
"It seriously violated the law. Investigations are under way, and the suspected rumor mongers will be punished in accordance with the law."
Sepat hit Fujian at 2 am on Sunday, leaving a trail of chaos in which landslides killed 18 people and left five missing by 3 pm yesterday.
The ninth typhoon of the year has dumped an average 200 mm of rainfall on most counties in Fujian since last Friday.
The worst-hit county of Jiaocheng received 490 mm.
Sepat has also killed 13 and left three missing in Wenzhou, a manufacturing center in Zhejiang. Eleven people were killed by a tornado that smashed 156 houses on Saturday night.
On Sunday, a landslide triggered by the downpours hit a minibus in Wenzhou, killing one of its 19 passengers.
One woman was found dead in the debris of her house the same day.
The Central Meteorological Observatory predicted that heavy downpours would continue in eastern China over the following two days.
(China Daily 08/22/2007 page3)