Hainan bracing for typhoon Lekima

By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-10-03 08:46

The severe tropical storm Lekima was upgraded to typhoon Tuesday afternoon and is moving closer towards South China's island province of Hainan, where 100,000 people have been evacuated, local authorities said.

Lekima, named after a fruit in Vietnam, was located at 17.7 degrees north latitude and 110.4 degrees east longitude at 6:00 pm Tuesday, about 110 km southeast of Sanya, the southernmost city of Hainan, the Hainan Provincial Meteorological Observatory said.

Lekima, upgraded to typhoon at 2:00 pm Tuesday, is packing winds of about 118.8 kilometers per hour at its eye and heading towards northwest at a speed of 15 km per hour, the observatory said.

It forced the closure of the Qiongzhou Straits early Monday and the subsequent cancellation of all aquatic entertainment activity, according to local authorities.

It had already killed at least eight people in the northern Philippines after triggering landslides, floods and big waves.

At least 20,000 fishing boats were ordered to return to port in Hainan, said the Provincial Headquarters of Flood, Typhoon and Drought Control.

Sluice gates at 17 reservoirs in the province were opened to divert possible floodwater, while headquarters dispatched working teams to six cities and counties to safeguard visitors, residents and businesses.

"It's definitely the least welcome guest but nobody could stop it," Tian Zhi, a manager with China Travel Service Sanya Branch, told China Daily. "We just pray it will come fast and leave fast."

Despite rainfall in the morning, visitors to Sanya, the popular southernmost city of Hainan, still enjoyed the Hainan coast's famous sunshine, fruit and cuisine Tuesday.

"Our business would be affected but very limited because most of the tourists to the island arrived from September 30 to October 2," she noted.

But the storm might weaken the average occupancy rate in Hainan during the week-long National Day holiday.

Figures from the Hainan Tourism Bureau showed that nearly 40 percent of the hotel rooms in the province had been booked when the holiday started on Monday, of which Sanya recorded the highest rate of 52 percent for a single day.

By comparison, the average room occupancy rate during the Labor Day Holiday in Sanya reached almost 90 percent.

The latest blow to the island's hospitality industry follows the 14th tropical storm, Francisco, on September 24.

Chen Lei, deputy head of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, has ordered local authorities to closely monitor Lekima.

He also urged emergency services to take precaution to ensure the safety of people and minimize property loss.

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