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. Mass evacuation in China after typhoon pounds Taiwan

NASA satellite image of Typhoon Morakot.

One dead, eight missing as Typhoon Morakot hits Taiwan
One person was killed and eight were missing feared dead in Taiwan as Typhoon Morakot lashed the island with powerful winds and downpours, rescuers and officials said Saturday. Morakot had dumped 2,000 millimetres (78 inches) of rain on southern Pingtung county as of Saturday night, flooding at least three coastal townships, the government said. Evening papers said it was the county's worst flooding in 50 years, citing Pingtung's magistrate Tsao Chi-hung, while his deputy Chung Chia-pin said at least 10,000 people were trapped in flooded areas. "We have put all our manpower and resources into the rescue work to gradually evacuate those who are trapped. We need more help," Chung told ETTV. More than 1,500 rescuers and soldiers continued to battle the bad weather in Pingtung to evacuate people to safety and deliver supplies by boats, the authorities said. Television footage showed torrential downpours had submerged houses and streets in Pingtung, cutting off electricity and phone services. "The flood started this morning and the water is over two stories high in most places," said a policeman from Chiatung township, one of the worst-hit areas. In southern Kaohsiung city, a woman died after she fell into a ditch when strong winds swept her off her motorcycle, said the National Fire Agency. It also said four fishermen and four people who had fallen into rivers were unaccounted for while nineteen people have been injured, but none seriously. Across Taiwan, some 3,500 people have been evacuated to safety, the agency said. Taiwan's worst flooding occurred exactly 50 years ago when 667 people were killed as heavy rains lashed the island for three consecutive days beginning on August 7. Morakot made landfall around midnight Friday in eastern Hualien county, unleashing powerful winds that swayed high-rise buildings, turned over cars and uprooted trees and road signs. Waves as high as nine metres (30 feet) hit coastal Hualien, reports said, while television footage showed winds had ripped the iron roof off an elementary school in central Changhua county. The typhoon had caused at least 832 million Taiwan dollars (26 million US) in agricultural damage and temporarily disrupted electricity in more than one million households, officials said. Taiwan's financial markets, offices and summer schools were shut and most outdoor festivities postponed on Friday while nearly 600 domestic and international flights were cancelled in two days, the authorities said. The weather bureau has downgraded Morakot to a tropical storm but warned against continuing heavy rains island-wide. Across from Taiwan, in Fujian, 21,190 people were evacuated to safety and about 34,000 vessels had been recalled to port ahead of the typhoon, according to provincial authorities. Fujian's meteorological station said Morakot was likely to land on the coastal province Saturday evening or night.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 9, 2009
China rushed nearly one million people out of harm's away as Typhoon Morakot slammed into its coast Sunday after triggering Taiwan's worst flooding in 50 years, leaving at least four people dead.

After also leaving tens of thousands trapped in Taiwan, the powerful storm landed in China's Fujian province at 4:20 pm (0820 GMT), the provincial meteorological bureau said.

Earlier in the day, a four-year-old child died in the Chinese city of Wenzhou after his family's house collapsed in heavy rains and winds, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

The child was buried along with four adults in debris and died after emergency treatment failed, Xinhua said, citing the city's flood-control headquarters.

Morakot pounded Taiwan over the weekend with powerful winds and torrential rain, forcing the government to deploy the military to rescue stranded residents, officials said.

Television footage showed a woman in tears reporting that her daughter and husband had plunged into a river when a flash flood swept away their car in the central county of Nantou.

"My daughter called me twice saying: 'We're being washed away! Hurry, hurry!' Then I lost them," the sobbing woman told reporters.

Officials said three people were confirmed dead and at least 31 were missing as Morakot dumped a record 2.5 metres (100 inches) of rain on the southern county of Pingtung.

At least 10,000 people were trapped in three coastal townships, Pingtung deputy magistrate Chung Chia-pin said, and officials said tens of thousands of other people were also trapped in the counties of Tainan and Chiayi.

"This is the worst flooding in Chiayi in 50 years," county magistrate Chen Ming-wen told reporters.

A typhoon that struck Taiwan in August 1959 killed 667 people and left some 1,000 missing.

Across the Taiwan Strait, more than 505,000 people were evacuated from the Fujian coast and another 490,000 were relocated in the neighbouring province of Zhejiang, Xinhua reported.

Zhejiang issued a red alert earlier Sunday as it registered a maximum wind speed of nearly 180 kilometres (113 miles) an hour around the coastal city of Taizhou, Xinhua said.

Gale-force winds were expected to persist for at least three days and waves were forecast to reach as high as seven metres.

More than 35,000 ships were called in to port as the storm approached, Xinhua quoted Zhejiang flood-control headquarters as saying.

A cargo ship was stranded in rough seas and rescuers were trying to rescue its eight sailors, the agency reported.

Among the missing in Taiwan were 14 workers who disappeared when their makeshift shelter beside a river in southern Kaohsiung county was washed away by rising floodwaters early Sunday.

A bridge linking Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties collapsed and a local television station cited a motorist who narrowly escaped plunging into the river as saying he feared two cars had fallen in.

Armoured vehicles and marine landing craft, as well as rubber dinghies, were mobilised in a rescue operation involving at least 1,200 troops, Taiwan's defence ministry said.

Television footage showed a six-storey hotel in Taitung, southeastern Taiwan, collapsing in the floods. Staff and guests had already been evacuated, the reports said.

The typhoon has caused at least 2.1 billion Taiwan dollars (64 million US) in agricultural damage while 170,000 houses were left without power and 440,000 homes without water, according to officials.

Morakot also left floods and landslides in its wake after grazing the Philippines on its way to Taiwan.

The Manila government's civil defence office said the storm had left a total of 21 people dead, including two French tourists and a Belgian, with seven other people still missing.

Elsewhere in China, state media reported, three fishermen were confirmed dead and another 26 missing in 10 maritime disasters caused by tropical storm Goni near the southern island province of Hainan.

burs-elw/bsk

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Nearly one million flee approaching typhoon in China
Beijing (AFP) Aug 9, 2009
Authorities have evacuated nearly one million people from the southeast coast of China, where Typhoon Morakot was expected to make landfall later Sunday after lashing Taiwan, state media reported. The Xinhua news agency said that 473,300 residents of the coastal province of Zhejiang had been moved, while more than 480,000 people were evacuated from neighboring Fujian province. More than ... read more

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