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August 5, 2011

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Shanghai braces for typhoon

SHANGHAI is bracing for the strongest typhoon in its history this weekend.

A beach music festival due to be held in the city's Jinshan District has been canceled and other outdoor entertainment venues are preparing for the storm.

The city's airports, the railway bureau and the maritime safety administration all have plans in place to cope with the typhoon's arrival.

Typhoon Muifa is forecast to enter the East China Sea today and hit the coast of northern Zhejiang Province, about 100 kilometers from Shanghai, the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau said yesterday.

Although it was weakening from a super typhoon to a strong typhoon, the second highest level, it could still spell disaster with wind speeds of 162 kilometers per hour around its core causing violent storms in its path, the bureau said.

With Muifa's landing point close to the city, Shanghai is expected to experience torrential rain with falls of between 100 to 250 millimeters and winds of up to 117 kilometers per hour.

The bureau did not rule out the possibility that Muifa could hit the city directly or miss the city and head north along the coast, but the chances of those two scenarios were low, Yao Jianqun, deputy director of the bureau, said.

"So far, different organizations still have different predictions of its path as the calculation is complicated and the permissible error is about 150 kilometers either side," Yao said yesterday.

"It is also hard to predict its impact as a strong typhoon might not necessarily cause strong damage.

"That depends on many aspects, including its landing point."

But Yao said the destructive power of Muifa was likely to be stronger than 2005's Matsa, the strongest typhoon to have hit the city so far.

"Muifa should be closer to Shanghai than Matsa, which landed in the middle of Zhejiang with its core about 300 to 400 kilometers from Shanghai," Yao said. Landing on August 6, 2005, Matsa caused torrential rain with winds of 102 kilometers per hour in Shanghai from the evening of August 5 to the early morning of August 7.

Four people died and some 15,500 houses were damaged, according to bureau statistics. Economic losses were estimated at 100 million yuan (US$15.5 million).

"Muifa is very similar to Matsa in that both of them are big, strong and slow," said Shen Yu, senior engineer at the bureau.

"People should pay enough attention to it to avoid similar losses."

Meanwhile, a beach music festival that had been expected to attract tens of thousands of fans in the city's Jinshan District this weekend has been canceled, Jinshan government officials said last night.

About 30,000 tickets had been sold for the festival. Unconfirmed reports said that the event might go ahead next weekend.

The city's amusement parks are gearing up for the typhoon's arrival.

Roller-coasters and other rides would be closed down if the typhoon landed in the city. Xu Fei, an official with Happy Valley Amusement Park in Songjiang District, said.

The Shanghai Grand Carnival, currently taking place in the Pudong New Area, would take similar measures.

"We'll stop the rides if gale and rainstorm hit," said Wu Liangyu, an official with the organizing committee. "And people will be able to find a place to hide from the violent weather until rain stops."

The city's two airports are expecting delays or cancellations once the storm arrives and the civil aviation authority is updating airlines on the situation every six hours.

Shanghai Railway Bureau, the regional train operator, said it would limit train speeds or cancel services along coastal areas depending on the situation and emergency workers were standing by.

Plans are in place at Shanghai ports to allow vessels to shelter from the storm, maritime officials said.

There was a taste of the weather to come yesterday when a thunderstorm hit the city from around noon, flooding more than 10 streets.

Torrential rain swept most of the city from noon to 2pm and precipitation in Yangpu, Hongkou, Changning, Minhang, Huangpu, Zhabei and Putuo districts was all above 50 millimeters.

Yangpu experienced the highest fall, at 84.4 millimeters, officials with the Shanghai Flood Control Headquarters said yesterday.


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