China Begins Massive Cleanup After Typhoon Saomai

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Chinese authorities distributed emergency food supplies to evacuees and began massive clean-up efforts Saturday in the wake of Typhoon Saomai, which killed 105 people and left another 190 missing after it tore through the country's southeast.

More than 20,000 soldiers and paramilitary police were mobilized for relief efforts after Saomai — the strongest storm to strike the country since at least 1949 — blacked out cities and wrecked more than 50,000 homes.

State television showed workers distributing sacks of rice and bottles of cooking oil to evacuees camped out in shelters in the hardest-hit coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian. They also received emergency bedding and clothes.

Authorities also helped residents disinfect drinking water to prevent disease, China Central Television said.

CountryWatch: China

Bulldozers plowed through piles of wreckage and mud, pushing aside scraps of metal and chunks of concrete. Workers helped repair homes and street lamps.

The region was bracing for more torrential rain over the weekend. Saomai, which weakened to a tropical depression on Friday, was expected to drench Zhejiang and Fujian as well as the poor inland provinces of Jiangxi and Anhui.

Hardest-hit was Zhejiang, where the typhoon made landfall on Thursday, and the bulk of the deaths occurred in the city of Wenzhou, where at least 81 people were killed and 11 were missing, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

In Cangnan County on Wenzhou's outskirts, 43 bodies including those of eight children were found in the debris of collapsed houses where they had sought shelter from the storm, Xinhua said. Its Web site said 15 inches of rain fell in just six hours.

"The storm caused the most serious losses ever in Cangnan," said a local Communist Party official who would give only his surname, Lin.

The state-run China Daily newspaper had a front page photo of grieving relatives carrying the body of a victim dug out from the rubble in Cangnan. Another photo showed a man wading through murky, thigh-deep water next to a partially submerged car.

A 12-member team of psychologists was sent to Cangnan to help people deal with the aftermath of the disaster, Xinhua said.

A landslide set off by heavy rains in Lishui, another city in Zhejiang, killed six people, Xinhua said.

Seventeen people died in neighboring Fujian province, where Saomai destroyed crops, shut down mines and factories, and razed tens of thousands of homes. Power was knocked out in a half dozen cities.

The government has announced it was allocating $21 million in aid to regions hit by Saomai and other recent weather disasters.

Much of the area is still recovering from Tropical Storm Bilis, which killed more than 600 people last month, many of them in mountain villages and other inland areas.

Also Saturday, a flash flood triggered by heavy rains in north China killed at least seven people, Xinhua said.

Saomai, the Vietnamese name for the planet Venus, was the eighth major storm to hit China during an unusually violent typhoon season. Its winds gusted up to 170 mph, Xinhua said.

The weather bureau said Saomai was the most powerful typhoon since 1949, when officials began keeping records.

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