- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

BEIJING — The most powerful typhoon to hit China in five decades raged across its southeastern coast yesterday, capsizing ships and destroying homes after about 1.5 million people were evacuated. At least two persons were killed and dozens were injured.

Nineteen persons 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 persons were killed in the city of Fuding, while 80 persons 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 because of 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 persons were evacuated from flood-prone areas of Zhejiang, and 569,000 others were evacuated 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, which was not affected by the storm.

In the Philippines, more than 200 houses built on stilts were destroyed, 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.

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.


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