Typhoons hammer eastern provinces
Updated: 2012-08-04 04:10
By Jin Zhu in Beijing and Sun Li in Fuzhou (China Daily)
More than 2 million residents in East China's coastal regions were affected by two typhoons on Friday, and one person died in Shandong province, even as the tempests weakened to tropical storms after making landfall.
As of 10 am on Friday, Saola and Damrey had forced the evacuation of about 124,000 residents in Jiangsu province, 180,000 in Shandong province, 237,000 in Zhejiang province, and 173,000 in Fujian province, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
The two typhoons landed less than 10 hours apart on Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to the National Meteorological Center.
The storms brought torrential rain to Jiangsu and the southern coastal areas of Shandong early on Friday morning after Damrey landed in Jiangsu at about 9:30 pm on Thursday, the center said.
Similar weather hit Fujian and its neighboring provinces on Friday morning after Saola made landfall in Fuding city at 6:50 am, it said.
This was only the second time that China has braced for dual typhoons since 1949. Zhang Chang'an, deputy director of the typhoon and marine meteorology center of the China Meteorological Administration, said on Thursday that in 2006, Typhoon Bopha and Typhoon Saomai caused severe losses.
Witnesses to the storm described their terror.
"It's too scary! I never thought my house would collapse before my eyes,"said Shen Kaixuan, from Jufeng township of Rizhao, 347 kilometers away from Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.
The 21-year-old student told China Daily on Friday that he went to bed as usual on Thursday night because the rain was not very heavy.
Since Wednesday, five people in Taiwan have died, two remain missing and more than 16 have suffered injuries because of Typhoon Saola, according to the island's emergency operation center.
The Chinese mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits sent a letter of condolence to the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation on Friday over the devastation wrought by the typhoon.
The letter said the ARATS was "deeply concerned" about the death and injuries as well as property losses caused by the floods and mudslides on the island, and it asked SEF to convey its "sincere sympathy" to relevant authorities and affected people, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Premier Wen Jiabao called for intensifying flood-control efforts and ensuring the safety of the public amid recent severe flooding in several areas.
Wen made the remarks during a two-day tour of Henan and Hubei provinces, where he inspected local flood-control facilities and water-control projects, including Three Gorges Dam, Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.
He urged local authorities to ensure safety and conduct evacuations in a timely manner, adding that observatories and hydrologic monitoring stations should enhance monitoring and guard against possible disasters.
Local authorities need to improve the construction of infrastructure such as flood-control facilities and sewage networks, which he said have been overlooked in many cities.
He ordered local officials to draw up emergency response plans to minimize losses in the event of severe flooding.
The National Meteorological Center alerted local authorities to gear up their preparations for natural disasters such as floods, mudslides and landslides since heavy rainfall will lash more than 10 provinces and municipalities in coming days.
Chen Weifeng, mayor of Qinyu in Fujian province, said that although the typhoon has made landfall, the town will still be geared up to tackle the downpour and prevent marine staff and fishermen from going back to sea to ensure safety.
The command center of Fuzhou airport said 28 flights have been canceled because of strong winds.
Tourism in Fujian also took a toll, as individual tourists and tour groups have dropped because of Saola, said a manager surnamed Chen with Fujian Comfort Travel Co.
Trips to some coastal scenic spots have been canceled, Chen said.
But Gulangyu, a popular tourist destination in Xiamen, remained open on Friday afternoon as the city was barely affected, said an official with Gulangyu Management Committee.
The combined impact of Saola and Damrey will continue to dump rain on Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hebei, Liaoning, and Tianjin in the next two days, with the highest rainfall reaching 300 mm in parts of coastal regions in Fujian and Zhejiang, according to the China Meteorological Administration on Friday.
In Tianjin, a city that has rarely seen flooding in the past decade, self-protection became a hot topic among local residents since it was hit by the heavy rainfalls in July that flooded many downtown streets, vehicles and even houses.
"I am ready to go home when the weather changes. When the heavy rain comes, I would rather stay at home for safety than drive outside to make money," Wang Yongqiang, a 43-year-old taxi driver, said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the death toll from Beijing's devastating downpour on July 21 rose to 78 after another body was discovered, government authorities said on Friday.
The body of a 65-year-old man from neighboring Hebei province was retrieved from a pond near Dongguan village of Fangshan district, according to a statement issued by the Beijing municipal government on its official Sina Weibo micro blog, citing the city's floods control and drought relief office.
The statement also said one of the 11 unidentified bodies previously discovered had been identified.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Chinese capital received its heaviest rain in six decades. Average precipitation hit 170 mm, while a township in the suburban district of Fangshan recorded 460 mm of rainfall.
Wang Qian in Jinan contributed to this story.
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