x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

China spared devastation as typhoon Megi weakens

Heavy rains soaked south-east China yesterday, but the region was spared the devastation that former super typhoon Megi brought to Taiwan and the Philippines.

BEIJING // Heavy rains soaked south-east China yesterday, but the region was spared the devastation that former super typhoon Megi brought to Taiwan and the Philippines.

Forecasters downgraded Megi to a tropical depression as it weakened further after making landfall on the mainland on Saturday afternoon. While there were no reports of deaths in China, and the storm fell well short of causing the worst storm surges in 50 years that had been predicted, billboards on the mainland were torn down, roads were blocked by toppled trees and farmland was flooded. Fishing boats and shellfish beds were damaged in Fujian province, where Megi struck land.

One local newspaper said an estimated 1.5 billion yuan (Dh827 million) worth of damage had been caused to the city of Zhangzhou in Fujian.

Flood control officials were yesterday considering when the 313,700 Fujian residents who had been moved to safer areas could return to their homes.

"After checking the safety of houses, different areas can decide when to allow people to return," said Li, an employee of the Fujian provincial flood control headquarters who only uses one name.

Megi was downgraded on Saturday to a tropical storm before being further reclassified as a tropical depression as its winds continued to slow. At its peak, Megi had gusted at up to 260kph and was rated as the strongest storm in the world this year. It was the 13th typhoon to hit China this year.

In Taiwan, rescue and clean-up work continued after the storm tore across the island late last week, causing mudslides that blocked roads and buried buildings, killing at least 13.

The government said rescuers had found what was thought to be the wreckage of a bus on which 19 missing Chinese tourists were travelling. Families of those missing have travelled to Taiwan as rescue efforts continue.

Also yesterday, the number of confirmed dead increased to 13 when the body of a woman, thought to be a local teacher, was discovered, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported. At least 23 people remain unaccounted for on the island.

Among the confirmed dead are nine people killed when a mudslide engulfed the temple they were sheltering in.

The United States added US$800,000 (Dh2.94m) to $100,000 in aid it had previously given to the Philippines after Megi caused widespread death and destruction in north Luzon island a week ago, according to local media reports. US officials said their military had also helped transport relief supplies to the worst-hit areas. There were large-scale power cuts, toppled trees and wrecked homes after Megi passed over the area.

The death toll in the Philippines stood at 28, while the estimated cost of the damage caused was yesterday put at 8.3 billion pesos (Dh708m), most of it agriculture-related.

In Vietnam, heavy rain over the past week from a separate weather system has killed at least 75 people and forced more than 170,000 to flee their homes, while in Thailand at least 23 have died from flooding.

dbardsley@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press