Typhoon Slams China, Over 1.5 Million Evacuated

Typhoon Saomai, the most powerful storm to hit China in five decades, raged ashore Thursday and churned across the crowded southeast, killing at least two people, wrecking houses and capsizing ships after 1.5 million residents were evacuated.

Damage was expected to be widespread in areas that were still recovering from Tropical Storm Bilis, which claimed more than 600 lives last month.

Saomai, with winds of up to 135 mph, hit land in China in the coastal town of Mazhan in Zhejiang province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The area is about 950 miles south of the Chinese capital, Beijing, which wasn't affected.

The Zhejiang provincial weather bureau said it was the most powerful storm to strike China since the founding of the communist government in 1949, Xinhua said.

CountryWatch: China

Saomai, dubbed a "super typhoon" by Chinese forecasters due to its huge size and high wind speeds, was the eighth major storm of this year's unusually violent typhoon season.

It killed at least two people in the Philippines earlier in the week and dumped rain on Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong, forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights.

In China, two people were killed Thursday in the southern city of Fuding in Fujian province, which borders Zhejiang to the south, Xinhua said. It didn't give any other details.

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.

Before the storm hit China, authorities evacuated 990,000 people from flood-prone areas in Zhejiang and 569,000 from parts of neighboring Fujian province, Xinhua said.

Xinhua said 80 people were injured and more than 1,000 houses toppled in and around Mazhan. It said one inch of rain fell in one hour.

Saomai is the Vietnamese name for the planet Venus.

China's weather bureau forecast a summer of powerful typhoons, saying a warm Pacific current would create bigger storms and weather patterns over Tibet would draw them farther inland.

Bilis set off flooding and landslides as far inland as Hunan province, hundreds of miles from the coast.

Most of the deaths from Bilis occurred in areas away from coastal communities that are protected by dike networks and have long experience in evacuating flood-prone areas.

Farther south on China's coast, Guangdong province and the Guangxi region were lashed last week by Typhoon Prapiroon, which killed at least 80 people in floods and landslides.

The Hong Kong airport said Thursday that 10 flights between Hong Kong and Taiwan and the mainland city of Fuzhou were canceled and 16 delayed.

In the Philippines, two people died and seven were missing after waves and heavy rains from Saomai battered coastal villages, officials said.

More than 200 houses built on stilts were destroyed as waves up to 10 feet high ravaged the coast of Bongao, the capital of the southern province of Tawi-Tawi, before dawn Wednesday, said provincial Gov. Sadikul Sahali.

A child died and another was reported missing, he said.

"There is floating debris everywhere," Sahali said.

Elsewhere, a man was killed as waves washed away about 200 shanties in seaside villages in Talisay, a city on the central island of Cebu, early Wednesday, the civil defense office said.

Saomai passed north of Taiwan, but the Central Weather Bureau issued a warning for waters off the island's northern coast. Some airlines canceled domestic flights.

Even as Saomai stormed ashore, Chinese forecasters were already closely watching Tropical Storm Bopha, which trailed behind it farther out in the Pacific.

Late Thursday, Bopha was about 110 miles southeast of Guangdong and moving west with winds of 29 mph, according to the Hong Kong Observatory.

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