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August 10, 2009

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Typhoon brings deaths, evacuations

TYPHOON Morakot slammed into China's eastern coast yesterday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of nearly a million people after earlier lashing Taiwan with torrential rain that caused the island's worst flooding in 50 years and left dozens missing and feared dead.

Morakot made landfall in the coastal areas of Beibi Town of Xiapu County in Fujian Province, carrying heavy rain and winds of 118.8 kilometers per hour, the province's meteorological bureau said.

One death was reported by yesterday evening.

Taiwan, meanwhile, was recovering after the storm dumped more than 200 centimeters of rain on some southern counties on Friday and Saturday, the island's weather bureau reported.

Taiwan's Disaster Relief Center said a woman was killed when her vehicle plunged into a ditch in Kaohsiung County in heavy rain on Friday, and two men drowned in Pingtung and Tainan. It said 31 were missing and feared dead.

Nearly a million people were evacuated from the coastal provinces by early yesterday - more than 490,000 people in Zhejiang and 480,000 in neighboring Fujian.

Authorities in Fujian called 48,000 boats back to harbor.

Thirty-nine flights from Wenzhou City in Zhejiang were canceled yesterday.

Village officials in Zhejiang rode bicycles to distribute drinking water and instant noodles to residents stranded by deep floods.

Heavy rain before the typhoon made landfall destroyed five houses in the province, burying four adults and a boy, 4, in debris. The child died after emergency treatment failed, local authorities said.

More than 300 houses had collapsed, and 16,200 hectares of farmland were inundated. Wenzhou's airport was closed and 56 roads were cut off by rainstorms.

Sailors stranded

People caught in the storm stumbled with flashlights as darkness enveloped the town of Beibi in Fujian, uprooting trees and inundating farmlands. Farmers tried to catch fish that were swept off fish farms by rising waves.

Rescuers attempted to reach eight sailors on a cargo ship stranded after strong winds blew it onto a reef off Fujian, local officials said.

Morakot, which means "emerald" in Thai, was expected to travel north at about 10 kilometers per hour and weaken in strength, the state meteorological administration said.

It said the storm would also bring strong wind and heavy rain to nearby areas, including Shanghai.

Morakot hit Taiwan late on Friday and crossed the island on Saturday.

Taiwan's Disaster Relief Center reported yesterday that flash floods washed away a home in southern Kaohsiung, leaving 16 people missing.

Three were swept away in Taitung County. Twelve others were missing, including three fishermen from a capsized boat and three others whose cars fell into a rain-swollen river, the center said.

In southern Pingtung County, 4,000 people were stranded in inundated villages waiting for police rescue boats.

In Taitung, a six-story hotel collapsed into a river after floodwaters eroded its base, but all 300 people inside were evacuated and uninjured.

Morakot was the first typhoon to hit Taiwan this year. Typhoons are common between July and September, often causing widespread injuries and deaths.


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