CHINA> Regional
Million flee as Morakot slams coast
By Hu Meidong in Fujian,Cui Xiaohuo in Beijing (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-10 07:43

The most devastating typhoon this year hit coastal provinces in East China yesterday, leaving at least one dead, nearly 1 million people relocated, and causing severe flooding as the nation braced for more rain today.

With wind gusts of up to 50 m per second, Typhoon Morakot slammed Beibi town, Xiapu county in north Fujian province, shortly after 4 pm, bringing waves of up to 8 m high and cutting electricity in the county.

The State Flood and Drought Control Headquarters warned the region to step up disaster relief efforts against the typhoon, which is expected to cause damage of up to 8.5 billion yuan ($1.2 billion).

The deadly typhoon, which swept across the west Pacific region during the weekend, already claimed at least 23 lives and four lives respectively when it hit the Philippines and Taiwan's Hualien region, causing the worst flooding in the island in half a century.

A 4-year-old boy was killed yesterday on the mainland as family members were buried after tropical rains brought down houses in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, the city's flood control headquarters reported.

"Cars were almost crawling on the flooded streets and you just saw so few people walking around for a Sunday," said Lin Guangliang, a 28-year-old businessman in the coastal county of Rui'an, in Wenzhou.

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The city saw 200,000 residents on the move after facing precipitation of 800 mm.

Rescuers raced to evacuate more than 505,000 from Fujian and 490,000 from Zhejiang, after witnessing the devastating impact in Taiwan on Saturday.

The typhoon caused a six-storey hot spring resort to collapse and flipped over sections of a bridge near Hualien on Saturday. At least 31 people were reported missing.

Meteorological authorities across the Taiwan Straits had tracked down the worst typhoon this year by sharing their statistics and predictions.

Soldiers used speedboats to pick up villagers trapped on the roofs of their houses yesterday in Xiapu county hours before the typhoon hit the 500,000-populated region.

In Zhejiang, where the highest-degree "red alert" was issued, more than 35,000 ships were called back from sea, the provincial flood control headquarters said.

Fujian maritime authorities assisted hundreds of ships back to the harbor. But a 30,000-ton cargo ship was blown onto a reef early yesterday before rescuers saved eight sailors.

Strong winds and heavy rainstorms have caused traffic havoc, but were expected to do more harm after the typhoon landed. The central meteorological bureau predicted constant downpours early this week in regions under the impact of the typhoon.

Cross-Straits ferries between Xiamen and Jinmen were suspended for the second day yesterday. The Shanghai Port and Wenzhou airport both canceled ferries and flights. A number of expressways in Fujian and Zhejiang were closed.

Floods and landslides paralyzed traffic in many rural areas.

Officials in some Zhejiang villages had to ride bikes to distribute drinking water and instant noodles to stranded households.

Li Saixi, a native of Qiyu village in Luoyuan county, was pumping water out of his basement following a downpour Saturday night.

"The rain gushed into my house at midnight and the water level had reached to my thigh about 2 am," he told Xinhua News Agency.

Farmers tried to protect their production facilities against high waves. The supply of vegetables and seafood to markets was severely affected.

Water conservation and disaster control authorities in Anhui province, Zhejiang's northwestern neighbor, were dispatching teams to reinforce preventive measures in disaster-prone areas.

Local governments issued flood warnings.

"All the rain and winds have cut off electricity in some places but most of the residents are calm," said Chen Luyao, a resident of Taizhou, in Zhejiang, where gale-force winds caused waves of up to 7 m.

"But we heard the rains will not stop for two to three days and the impact of this typhoon will be quite long-lasting," he said.