STRONGEST TYPHOON IN 50 YEARS HITS CHINA
By JOE McDONALD, Associated Press Writer August 10, 2006
BEIJING - The most powerful typhoon to hit China in five decades raged across its southeastern coast Thursday, capsizing ships
and destroying homes after 1.5 million people evacuated. At least two people were killed and dozens were injured.
Nineteen people were reported
missing across the region, and Typhoon Saomai was also blamed for at least two deaths in the Philippines a day earlier.
Torrential rains were forecast
in the next three days as the typhoon churned inland across crowded areas where Tropical Storm Bilis killed more than 600
people last month.
Saomai, with winds up to
135 mph, made landfall at the town of Mazhan in coastal Zhejiang province and was moving northwest at 12 mph, the Xinhua News
Agency said, citing weather officials.
Xinhua said two people were
killed in the city of Fuding, while 80 people were injured
and more than 1,000 houses toppled in and around Mazhan.
Eight Taiwanese sailors
were missing after two ships capsized in a harbor in Fujian,
while four Chinese were missing after their ship struck a reef, the agency reported. Seven others were reported missing in
the Philippines after giant waves and
heavy rains generated by the typhoon battered coastal villages, officials said.
Saomai, dubbed a "super
typhoon" by Chinese forecasters due to its huge size and high wind speeds, was the eighth major storm of this year's unusually
violent typhoon season. Saomai was the most powerful typhoon to hit China
since the founding of the communist government in 1949, Xinhua said, citing the Zhejiang
provincial weather bureau.
Before the storm's arrival,
990,000 people were evacuated from flood-prone areas of Zhejiang and 569,000 from the neighboring
coastal province of Fujian,
Xinhua said. It said a total of 70,000 ships had returned to port in the two provinces.
The area is about 950 miles
south of Beijing, the Chinese capital, which was not affected
by the storm.
In the Philippines, more than 200 houses built on stilts were destroyed and a child was killed and
another was reported missing as waves up to 10 feet tall ravaged the coast of Bongao, the
capital of southern Tawi-Tawi province, before dawn Wednesday, provincial Gov. Sadikul Sahali said.
"There is floating debris
everywhere," Sahali said.
At least six members of
a family also were reported missing after their house was buried in a landslide on Sarangani island, part of southern Davao
del Sur province, the Office of Civil Defense said.
Elsewhere, a man was killed
as big waves washed away about 200 shanties in seaside villages in Talisay city on central Cebu
island early Wednesday, the civil defense office said.
Saomai, named for the Vietnamese
word for the planet Venus, passed across Japan's Okinawa
island group on Wednesday with winds up to 89 mph, prompting airlines to cancel 141 flights and affecting 24,000 passengers.
China's weather bureau had forecast unusually heavy typhoon action
this summer, saying warmer than normal Pacific currents and weather patterns over Tibet would create bigger storms and draw them farther inland.
Bilis triggered flooding
and landslides as far inland as Hunan province, hundreds
of miles from the coast.
Most of the deaths happened
in areas away from coastal communities that have elaborate dike networks and a long history of evacuating flood-prone areas.
Typhoon Prapiroon lashed
China's southern coast last week, killing at least 80 people in floods
and landslides in Guangdong province and neighboring Guangxi.
Even as Saomai stormed ashore,
Chinese forecasters were already closely watching Tropical Storm Bopha, which trailed behind it farther out in the Pacific.
Bopha was about 110 miles southeast of Guangdong late Thursday
and moving west with winds of 29 mph, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.