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August 6, 2011

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Home » Metro » Public Services

Muifa puts city on alert as typhoon approaches

Shanghai has ordered all its local government departments to be on emergency alert to prepare for the approach of Typhoon Muifa.

This year's first typhoon alert was issued yesterday morning as the powerful typhoon moved closer to the city, packing winds of up to 162 kilometers per hour and threatening havoc over the next two days, the weather bureau said.

Shanghai Meteorological Bureau said Muifa was 750 kilometers southeast of the city by 5pm yesterday and moving at a speed of 15kph towards the Chinese coast.

The typhoon was most likely to land in northern coast of Zhejiang Province tonight and swirl past the west of Shanghai, the bureau said. Although there was still uncertainty about its path yesterday, the differences in predictions by experts in China, Japan, the United States and Europe had narrowed.

The possibility of Muifa directly hitting Shanghai has not yet been ruled out.

Only two typhoons had directly landed on the city before, one in 1977 and the other in 1989, the weather bureau said.

Shanghai is expected to suffer winds of up to 117kph downtown and 133kph in coastal areas tonight with the stormy weather lasting until tomorrow.

"We are facing a big challenge in our utilities, especially the subway and tunnels, as the city hasn't met such a level of typhoon since Matsa in 2005," said Shen Jun, vice mayor of Shanghai. "Everyone should be on alert."

On August 6, 2005, Matsa caused torrential rain with winds of 102kph in Shanghai from the evening of August 5 to the early morning of August 7. Seven people died in the disaster and total economic losses in the city were estimated at 1.3 billion yuan (US$201.9 million), Shen said.

Shen asked all departments to be prepared for the typhoon and be ready to evacuate residents from coastal areas. Any outdoor structures, such as billboards and lighting should be checked and made safe.

All outdoor events today and tomorrow have been canceled or delayed, Shanghai Flood Control Headquarters said last night.

All construction projects in the city's coastal areas or involving high-rises have been suspended with workers evacuated from their temporary accommodation.

Rescue crews, including police, army and fire departments, are on standby ready for any emergency, Shen said.

Domestic airlines have launched emergency measures in the expectation that the typhoon will severely impact operations in Shanghai and nearby cities.

China Southern Airlines, based in southern China's Guangzhou City, has canceled more than 140 flights heading to east China from 2pm today.

Beijing-based Air China has canceled more than 30 flights to Wenzhou, Taizhou and Ningbo today and tomorrow.

Shanghai-based China Eastern is suspending online check-ins on flights leaving from the city's Hongqiao and Pudong airports until 5pm on Monday.

It said it would closely monitor conditions in Shanghai, Wenzhou, Ningbo and Hangzhou in case flight schedules needed to be changed. Passengers should ring the hotline 95530 before heading to the airport.

Budget carrier Spring Airlines said it had cancelled five flights tomorrow, including two from Shanghai to Tianjin.

The local airport authority said the typhoon could cause major delays over the weekend while measures to reinforce airport safety had already begun including checking outdoor structures and signboards.

Airport officials said they were also preparing to open up extra rest areas for passengers.

By yesterday afternoon, thousands of vessels had taken shelter at local ports while ferry services had been suspended for the weekend, said Wang Jiqin, a local maritime official.

High-speed railway services around Muifa's path would be slowed down or cancelled depending on the storm's severity, the Shanghai Railway Bureau said.

The railway authorities have established an inspection team to examine high-speed facilities and there could be delays or cancellations depending on the storm's severity.

The typhoon may also disrupt the city's Metro services, especially on above ground services.

If the wind force exceeded 74kph, which has been forecast, all trains would be shifted from automatic to manual control mode while speeds would be reduced. If the wind power grows stronger, trains will be required to further slow down or stop at the nearest station and evacuate passengers, officials said.

Services on above ground routes could be suspended if necessary for safety reasons, Metro officials said.

Officials also said that the Line 2 stretch from Guanglan Road to Pudong International Airport would also be suspended if necessary.

The city's drainage system has been cleared in readiness for the torrential rainfall that Muifa will bring, said Ma Yuandong, director of the Shanghai Water Authority's drainage division.

Since 2005, the city's drainage capacity had been upgraded by 1.8 million cubic meters per hour and the city purchased 16 pump trucks for the World Expo last year which could also contribute an hourly 13,600 cubic meters of drainage capacity, Ma said.

However, there are still about 400 neighborhoods with aged drainage systems which could suffer flooding during the storms.

Meanwhile, local farmers were in a rush to pick fruit, vegetables and food crops that were ripe and ready for harvest in the hope of reducing possible losses caused by the typhoon.

The Shanghai Agricultural Commission said it had urged growers to accelerate the harvest of late-maturing produce such as peaches and grapes.

Precautionary measures to ensure the safety of farm facilities against strong winds have been taken by reinforcing greenhouses and sheds.

Officials said they will cooperate with the water authorities to check drainage from fruit and vegetable fields to prevent waterlogging, especially in low-lying production regions.

Shanghai enjoyed excellent weather conditions yesterday with blue skies, white clouds and a slight breeze. It may well have been the calm before the storm, experts said.


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