Storm batters Fujian forcing evacuation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

Severe Tropical Storm Bilis roared into Fujian yesterday, forcing the evacuation of half a million people, after killing dozens in the Philippines and Taiwan.

The storm landed near Xiapu county in southern Fujian at 12.50pm, the provincial flood control authorities said.

The local government evacuated more than 256,000 residents, mostly aquaculture farmers and fishing families, from their coastal homes overnight, Xinhua reported. About 42,000 fishing boats were also ordered to return to harbour.

In neighbouring Zhejiang province , 260,000 people had to be moved from low-lying areas to safety. Zhejiang recorded winds of 120km/h and more over the sea and 65km/h to 120km/h on land.

The storm tore through Fujian and headed northwest to Jiangxi province last night with winds of up to 108km/h near its centre, Xinhua said.

'Bilis continues to move in a northwesterly direction and to weaken,' an official from the flood control office said.

The Fujian authorities had not received any reports of fatalities but the storm brought torrential rain to Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong. Fuzhou had recorded as much as 250mm of rain since Thursday night. The Fujian education bureau suspended classes. All parks were closed. Flights were cancelled in Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Fuzhou. Ferry services between Mawei in Fujian and Matsu in Taiwan were suspended.

Authorities put more than 3,500 People's Liberation Army soldiers on standby for rescue efforts. A flood control official warned there was a risk of landslides and floods. 'Some counties like Fuding have already had 252mm of rain in 24 hours. It's raining really hard,' he said.

The bad weather was expected to continue over the weekend, the Fujian observatory said.

The death toll from Bilis rose to 14 with seven missing in the northern Philippines, authorities said.

In Taipei, a man was electrocuted on Thursday and two mainland fishermen went missing after a boat ran aground off Matsu Island. Bilis caused landslides that disrupted traffic in central and eastern Taiwan but did not inflict major casualties, island officials said.