Friday, August 11, 2006
Lest we believe that North America is the only continent blessed with extreme weather events, here is Planet Ark's report on Saomai, which is a Class 5 typhoon that made landfall on Thursday Early reports of deaths from typhoon :
BEIJING - More than 1.3 million Chinese have fled their homes in the path of a super typhoon, the strongest to threaten the country in 50 years, as it churned relentlessly towards the southeast coast on Thursday.
Saomai, one of three storms to have hit East Asia in the past few days, has already dumped heavy rain on Taiwan and was just hours from an expected landfall between Hong Kong and Shanghai, just south of the booming city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province. Storm tracker Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com) graded Saomai a category five "super" typhoon -- its highest category. Chinese state media said it was the most powerful storm system to threaten the country since August 1956, when a typhoon hit Zhejiang, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 3,000. "Some meteorologists said that the typhoon might grow stronger," the official Xinhua news agency said, adding that it could be fuelled by remnants of the weakening, west-headed tropical storm Bopha. "Saomai is packing winds of 216 km per hour (134 mph) and has outpaced forecasts," Xinhua quoted Li Yuzhu, head of the Zhejiang provincial observatory, as saying. The centre of Saomai was 120 km (75 miles) southeast of Wenzhou at 0600 GMT and was less than 100 km from the nearest coastline, moving northwest at 20 kph.
Wenzhou residents were reinforcing windows and doors against the storm and stockpiling drinking water and food, state television said. Wenzhou airport had closed and hundreds of passengers were stranded because of cancelled flights, one airport manager said. "We don't know when we will open again," the manager, surnamed Zhou, told Reuters by telephone. "The wind is only fitful but rain is really heavy here." Wenzhou, once a prosperous foreign treaty port and now a manufacturing centre, has a central population of 1.3 million, but there are 7.4 million in the greater Wenzhou area. Xinhua reported that Zhejiang had already evacuated 760,000 people, with another 569,000 people involved in the neighbouring province of Fujian, as heavy rain, strong winds and a high tide hit the area. Schools, theatres and stadiums had been opened as shelters for the displaced, a Wenzhou official said, adding that factories, shops and offices had been ordered to stop all activities "unrelated to battling the typhoon". Officials in Wenzhou's Cangnan county resorted to television, Internet, text messaging and even two satellite phones to alert residents about Saomai. They also prepared 30 gongs, a traditional instrument in ancient China to warn people of disasters, the local government said on its Web site (www.cncn.gov.cn). Much of south China has been repeatedly battered by typhoons and tropical storms this year. Hundreds have been killed by rainstorms, mudslides and floods. Tropical storm Bilis killed more than 600 in China last month and typhoon Prapiroon killed about 80 last week. Tropical storm Bopha fizzled to the south of Taiwan this week and another veered towards the east of Japan. Typhoons and tropical storms are common each year in Taiwan, southeast China and the Philippines between July and October.