China Says 115 Killed, Hundreds Injured by Tropical Storm Bilis

Tropical storm Bilis killed at least 115 people as it pounded China's southeast, toppling houses and forcing the evacuation of a prison and thousands of villagers, news reports said Sunday.

High water stranded thousands of people after Bilis slammed into the coast Friday and churned inland, flooding villages and farms and damaging roads and power supplies.

Part of China's main north-south railway line was reportedly submerged, delaying thousands of travelers.

Coastal Fujian province in the southeast was hit hardest, with 43 deaths, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

It said 39 people were killed in inland Hunan and 33 in crowded Guangdong, an economic center that borders Hong Kong in the south.

Scores of others were reported missing.

Earlier reports said 349 people were hurt in Hunan and 12,000 stranded, while 31,400 houses had collapsed and 91,200 acres of crops were ruined.

In Lechang, a city in Hunan, waters were 10 feet deep in places, forcing authorities to move 1,663 inmates from a prison to higher ground, Xinhua said.

Losses in the neighboring coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian were estimated at $140 million, Xinhua said.

It didn't give figures for Hunan or Guangdong, a center for China's export-driven manufacturing industries.

A Russian vessel sank off China's coast during the storm, but the 11-member crew were rescued, Xinhua said.

China evacuated more than 250,000 fishermen and others from coastal areas, and canceled airline flights ahead of the storm.

Bilis had weakened from a typhoon to a tropical storm early Friday after lashing Taiwan.

Typhoons hit China every year in the Northern Hemisphere summer, causing hundreds of deaths.

The country expects to suffer from more storms than usual this year due to an unusually warm current off its Pacific coast and high temperatures on the Tibetan plateau.

At least 349 people died in China in June due to flooding, landslides and other weather-related disasters, with another 99 people missing, the government says. Damage was estimated at $2.5 billion.

Photos released by Xinhua showed storm-driven waves pounding the coast while police and soldiers piled up sandbags to plug a gap in an unfinished flood dike and helped residents leave low-lying areas.