Twin typhoons set to batter mainland
Lawrence Chung in Taipei and Fiona Tam
The first of two typhoons struck the east coast last night, with another set to make landfall early today, threatening devastation inland.
Typhoon Damrey struck Xiangshui county, Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai, at 9.30pm, Xinhua reported. Typhoon Saola is expected to make landfall between the southeastern cities of Ningde in Fujian and Wenzhou in Zhejiang .
Saola pounded Taiwan yesterday with fierce winds and torrential rain that killed at least five people and forced the shutdown of almost the entire island. At least two other people were still missing.
The storm struck the island from the east, first hitting the largest county, Hualien, and triggering heavy rain and mudslides as it moved north, forcing more than 1,500 people to flee their homes.
Most schools and businesses were closed, and financial markets halted trading.
More than 250 domestic and international flights, including some to and from Hong Kong and Japan, were cancelled or delayed.
Rail traffic was also paralysed across most of the island due to rising floodwaters, the island's Central Emergency Operation Centre said.
Television footage showed the water level was waist high in low-lying areas, where the military and local authorities scrambled to help flood victims to safety.
The five killed included the head of a police precinct in New Taipei City who fell into a roaring mountain stream while on patrol.
Three residents were also buried alive by mudslides in north and northeastern Taiwan, and a motorcyclist died after crashing into a tree that was blown over.
The two reported missing were a resident who was washed away by floodwaters in central Taiwan, and a person unaccounted for in a mudslide in the northeast. The centre added that 15 more were injured.
With Saola barrelling down on the mainland, more than 60,000 fishermen were evacuated from Fujian, cross-strait ferry services were suspended and flights cancelled.
In Fujian, more than 25.5 million text messages were sent to the public to warn them of Saola, the China News Service reported.
Jiangsu evacuated 56,000 people who work at sea or on the Yangtze River and another 50,000 who live along the coast, Xinhua reported.
With the storms bearing down, the China Meteorological Administration issued this year's first red typhoon warning, the highest alert.
The Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief headquarters warned that the typhoons could cause floods and mud- or rockslides in more than 10 inland provinces, including Jiangxi , Anhui and Henan .
Authorities warned that the fierce winds and torrential rain were likely to persist for about four days.
Premier Wen Jiabao told local authorities on Wednesday to be on the highest alert to prevent deaths and prepare for potential flooding in urban areas, after at least 77 people were killed in a torrential rainstorm in Beijing last month.
In Shanghai, at least 125 low-lying motorways or underpasses where vehicles could be submerged during heavy rain were being monitored.