x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

China evacuates as typhoon nears

Typhoon Morakot churns toward China forcing evacuations, a day after lashing Taiwan and causing the worst flooding on the island in 50 years.

Typhoon Morakot is churning toward China forcing the evacuation of nearly a million people, a day after lashing Taiwan with torrential rains that caused the worst flooding on the island in 50 years. In southern Taiwan, 29 people are missing, the Disaster Relief Centre said, and a woman was killed when her vehicle plunged into a ditch in Kaohsiung county in heavy rain on Friday. Morakot was centred 70 kilometres off China's southeastern Fujian province on Sunday morning.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said the storm had winds of up to 108 kilometres per hour and was headed north-west toward China at a speed of 11 kph. About a million people were evacuated from China's eastern coastal provinces by early Sunday - more than 470,000 people in Zhejiang and 485,000 others in neighbouring Fujian. Authorities in Fujian called 48,000 boats back to harbour. The meteorological station in eastern Zhejiang issued at typhoon alert and said the storm was likely to make landfall sometime between noon and night-time, bringing heavy rain to coastal areas.

Morakot hit Taiwan on Friday but traversed the island yesterday and weakened to a tropical storm in the Taiwan Strait. The typhoon also hit the northern Philippines early on Friday, triggering floods and landslides that killed at least 12 people. Several southern Taiwan counties recorded more than 200 centimetres of rain on Friday and Saturday, the worst flooding to hit the area in half a century, the Central Weather Bureau reported.

The Disaster Relief Center reported Sunday that flash flooding had washed away a makeshift home in southern Kaohsiung, leaving 16 people missing. Three others were swept away in southeastern Taitung county, including two policemen helping to evacuate villagers. Ten others were missing, including three fishermen from a capsized boat and three others whose cars fell into a swelling river, it said. In southern Pingtung county, 4,000 people were stranded in inundated villages waiting for police boats to rescue them, news media reported.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Goni - which made landfall in Guangdong on Wednesday and hit the coastal areas of Hainan on Thursday and Friday - weakened into a tropical depression by Sunday, said an official who would give only his surname Lin. Rescue helicopters and ships were still searching for about 10 crew whose ships were caught in Goni's gusts yesterday, according to a duty officer at the Hainan provincial government.

* AP