Chanchu Leaves 91 Dead, 150 Missing

The Asia-wide death toll from Tropical Storm Chanchu rose to 91 on Friday, with at least 150 fisherman still missing at sea as the tempest moved offshore again after battering southern China.

The storm has cut a path of destruction across at least four countries and territories around the South China sea since it rose to typhoon strength and tore through the Philippines last weekend, killing 37.

Chanchu was downgraded from a typhoon on Thursday as it reached China's heavily-populated southern coast, but was still powerful enough to cause landslides and flooding and force the evacuation of more than 1 million people.

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Storm-induced landslides and building collapses killed 15 people in Fujian province and left four missing, the provincial Water Resources Department said on its Web site.

Another eight perished in neighboring Guangdong province, it said, including a boy and girl aged five and six and their 68-year-old grandfather who were crushed when their home collapsed.

Taiwan and northern Vietnam were also pummeled by the storm's powerful winds and lashing rain, though it largely bypassed the port and financial center of Hong Kong.

More than 150 Vietnamese fishermen were missing and another 28 were found dead after getting caught in Typhoon Chanchu, a border official said Friday.

At least six boats carrying 122 fishermen sank during the typhoon, and another five boats carrying 99 people were missing, said Nguyen Da Luong, a border control officer in the central city of Danang.

On Friday, 60 people were pulled from the water alive and 24 were found dead, he said.

In Taiwan, two women were swept to their deaths by floods in the southern region of Pingtung.

High waves also swept away three 17-year-old male students swimming in Japan's southern Okinawa island chain, leaving one dead and another missing, said coast guard spokesman Shoji Kawabata. The third was rescued.

The storm was headed toward northern Japan on Friday. It would continue to weaken but bring heavy rain to Japan and possible flooding in northern Honshu island on Saturday, forecasting service Weather Underground said.

Chanchu caused scores of homes to be flooded in China, and officials moved more than 1 million people to schools and the homes of relatives in Guangdong and Fujian provinces. Nearly 100,000 ships were ordered to return to harbor, Xinhua said.

Fujian estimated storm damage at $480 million, including damage to 9,600 homes and 2,116,658 acres of crops. There was no immediate word on damage estimates in Guangdong.

Television news showed violent waves pounding sea walls along China's coast. Reports said winds and rain damaged dikes, uprooted trees and brought down buildings along the Guangdong coast.

A Chinese rescue vessel deployed in the South China Sea saved eight sailors from a stranded Belgian-flagged freighter, then came to the aid of 24 Vietnamese fishermen, the official China Daily reported.

The rescue ship, Dejin, reached the 1,000-ton Pompei Thursday afternoon, a day after the freighter's engines failed off the Pratas, or Dongsha, islands, the newspaper said, citing the government's Salvage and Rescue Bureau. After bringing the crew on board and towing the Pompei, the Dejin went to help the Vietnamese, giving them food, fuel and water, the newspaper said.

Chanchu, which means "pearl" in Cantonese, headed out to sea shortly before midnight Thursday, just southeast of the commercial hub of Shanghai, which on Friday enjoyed unusually fresh breezes and clear skies.

T.C. Lee, an official with the Hong Kong Observatory, said Chanchu was the "most intense" typhoon on record to strike in the South China Sea in May, an early month in the annual cyclone season.

Lee said the early arrival of the year's first typhoon does not necessarily portend an unusually active storm season, and said the observatory forecast an average year of six to eight typhoons affecting the territory.

But a Chinese meteorologist quoted by Xinhua, Ding Yihui of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the storm appeared to be a sign of increasingly extreme weather events, a phenomena some scientists have linked to rising global temperatures.