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. Evacuations And Transport Havoc As Typhoon Heads For China

Two young women look at the stormy Hong Kong island skyline along Victoria Harbour, 03 August 2006, as strong winds and rain lash the territory. Photo courtesy of Samantha Sin and AFP.
by Karl Malakunas
Beijing (AFP) Aug 03, 2006
Typhoon Prapiroon raced toward south China on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and causing transport chaos across the region. The typhoon, upgraded from a tropical storm on Wednesday after killing six people in the Philippines, was headed towards Guangdong province after skirting Hong Kong and Macau.

Trees were uprooted and scaffolding ripped down in Hong Kong, where 14 cargo containers were tipped over at the city's massive shipping terminal. At least four flights to Taiwan had to be cancelled, airport authorities said.

The Hong Kong Observatory said winds up to 60 kilometres (37 miles) an hour had hit Hong Kong as the typhoon came within 300 kilometres of the southern Chinese terrritory.

In nearby Macau authorities posted the number eight typhoon signal, alerting residents to stay at home as the storm brought high winds and heavy showers.

On the mainland, the Chinese meteorological administration said up to 18 centimeters (7.2 inches) of rain was expected to fall over the next few days.

The typhoon was expected to make landfall on Guangdong on Thursday night, the administration said.

It said 65,000 people had been evacuated from Guangdong, Hainan island directly to the south and Guangxi region to the west.

Guangdong authorities warned the province to be prepared for widespread flooding, high waves, landslides and the collapse of houses, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Rail, flights and ferry services had also been suspended in many areas, Xinhua said.

Heavy rain had already led to the deaths of eight people in Guangdong on Monday when a mudslide buried a house in Dapu county, the news agency reported earlier in the week.

The approach of Prapiroon marked the sixth typhoon of the season for southern China. The first of the season, Typhoon Chanchu, hit on May 18, more than a month earlier than usual.

Since then the region has been struck by four other typhoons or major storms.

The worst was Bilis, which struck on July 14 and hovered over southern China for 10 days, killing at least 612 people, according to Xinhua.

More than 1,400 people have been killed in China due to the typhoons this season, according to the Red Cross, which on Wednesday appealed for 3.8 million euros (five million dollars) to help survivors.

The appeal aims to help 240,000 "highly vulnerable people" in the provinces of Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangdong, Guangxi and Fujian, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement.

The money will be used to provide food, tents and blankets for 60,000 families, as well as helping to rebuild the homes of 1,200 families whose houses were destroyed in Hunan, Jiangxi and Guangxi.

While not as destructive, storms have also caused damage in China's north and northwest.

Floods and landslides since late June have killed 24 people in the far northwestern province of Gansu, Xinhua said, publishing the figures for the first time.

Severe storms led to the deaths of another nine people in neighboring Inner Mongolia region on July 27 and 28, according to Xinhua.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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