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Powerful typhoon heads for China after lashing Taiwan

by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) Sept 19, 2010
Typhoon Fanapi churned towards mainland China on Sunday after pounding Taiwan with fierce winds and torrential rains, leaving dozens of people hurt, sparking landslides and gridlocking traffic.

Chinese authorities upgraded their warning level to the second highest, the official Xinhua news agency said, as the mainland braced for Fanapi, which was expected to hit coastal areas of Guangdong and Fujian provinces Monday.

Packing gusts of up to 155 kilometres (97 miles) an hour, it was moving west towards China at 20 kilometres an hour, and as of 1315 GMT its centre was in the Taiwan Strait, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Typhoon Fanapi, which made landfall near Taiwan's east coast city of Hualien Sunday morning, caused 66 injuries on the island, with some people blown over by gales, knocked from motorcycles or hit by flying debris.

Television footage from Hualien showed lines of fallen trees, several houses with their roofs ripped off and an upturned lorry.

"Over the past three hours, the winds have slightly slowed after the typhoon was hampered by the high mountains," an official with the bureau said.

The weather bureau warned that the storm might bring more torrential rain and had already set off dozens of landslides.

"People should take precautions against possible flash flooding and avoid low-lying areas," Hsieh said.

The weather bureau said the typhoon dumped more than 1,000 millimetres (40 inches) of rain in the south of the island, prompting the military to send soldiers equipped with amphibious vehicles.

Memories are still raw in Taiwan of the onslaught of Typhoon Morakot in 2009, which left more than 700 people dead or missing in one of the island's worst natural disasters.

President Ma Ying-jeou and his administration came in for criticism after Morakot for reacting too late.

Authorities appear determined to take a more proactive approach this time, with Ma presiding over a video conference with local officials Sunday, urging measures to prevent major damage from the typhoon, whose name means "small atoll islands" in Micronesian.

High-speed rail services were interrupted and partially resumed, while all domestic and five international flights were called off. The National Fire Agency said more than 6,000 people had been evacuated from mountainous areas.

The typhoon also brought an abrupt halt to the inaugural Yeangder Tournament Players Championship golf tournament in Taiwan, with Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant declared the winner after 54 holes.

The Yeangder TPC is the second event on the Asian Tour schedule to be reduced to 54 holes, after bad weather also struck the Ballantine's Championship in Korea this season.

Taiwanese fishermen sought safety in ports along the coast, tying their vessels together with heavy ropes in an attempt to withstand powerful winds and waves.

Taiwan's population is accustomed to several typhoons each year, and many people went to shops and open-air markets Saturday to buy enough food to last for a couple of days.

In Hong Kong, a spokeswoman for the airport authority said 22 flights between Hong Kong and Taiwan were cancelled while another 16 were delayed because of the typhoon.

In China's Fujian province, more than 55,000 fishing boats had returned to port in anticipation of the dangerous winds and nearly 150,000 people had been moved to safety, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Authorities there warned Fanapi could be the fiercest typhoon to hit so far this year, the report said.

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