'Rain god' wreaks havoc on the south

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 August, 2006, 12:00am

More than 400,000 moved to safety before Typhoon Prapiroon hits Guangdong

Typhoon Prapiroon, the fifth large storm to batter southern China this year, roared ashore last night near Yangjiang in Guangdong, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people.

Coming hard on the heels of tropical storms Kaemi and Bilis, Prapiroon landed at 7pm between the towns of Yangxi and Dianbei. It was the first typhoon to hit Guangdong directly this year and brought strong winds and heavy rain to the Pearl River Delta region.

Prapiroon - 'rain god' in Thai - was heading northwest at 20km/h, with winds of more than 118km/h at its centre. It left a trail of fallen trees and damaged buildings.

'It was strong enough to lift a truck and cause widespread destruction,' said Qiao Lin , a senior researcher at the China National Observatory.

Mr Qiao said the typhoon would weaken gradually after making landfall and affect a smaller area than Bilis or Kaemi.

'After landing, it will weaken a bit. But it will bring heavy rain. In certain areas, the rainfall could reach 400mm,' he said.

More than 90 per cent of the 612 mainlanders killed by Bilis last month died from flooding and landslides, said Liu Yuzhong, an official from the state flood control and drought relief headquarters.

Xinhua said 406,343 people had been moved to safety in the southern provinces of Hainan and Guangdong and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Guangdong authorities called 53,200 vessels back to port. Typhoon warnings were issued in more than 50 cities and counties.

Water levels in reservoirs were lowered to prepare for flooding and coastal cities were told to shore up water barriers.

Classes were also cancelled in all public schools in Yangjiang and Zhanjiang .

The typhoon coincided with the end of a two-month moratorium on fishing in the South China Sea and many crews which had put to sea had to return empty-handed.

Local maritime police carried out eight rescue missions. CCTV said 68 people stranded on a vessel near Hong Kong waters had to be rescued by a team from the special administrative region.

The typhoon brought heavy downpours to Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

All ferry services to Hong Kong and Macau were suspended and dozens of flights were cancelled.

Huang Guoming , from China Southern Airlines, said about 1,000 of the company's passengers were affected. Mr Huang said many flights to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhanjiang airports had to be cancelled or delayed.

A Guangzhou resident described the typhoon as the biggest he had seen in recent years.

'I saw 'whitecapping' [waves] on the Pearl River. It's very rare in Guangzhou.'

A Guangzhou tour guide said: 'Our business has been affected a lot by this typhoon.'

The typhoon also brought about 60mm of rainfall in 24 hours to Shenzhen, but did not cause much damage.

Train services to Hong Kong were temporarily affected yesterday morning.

Prapiroon was moving towards Guangxi and could eventually reach the eastern part of Yunnan province, said Qian Chuanhai, a researcher from the national observatory.

Hainan authorities evacuated more than 90,633 people and called back 20,395 ships and boats.

Three special taskforces were sent to Wenchang , Haikou and Qionghai to organise flood prevention work.

Mr Qiao said the region was experiencing its highest incidence of typhoons in more than half a century and attributed the activity to global warming.

Agence France-Presse reported yesterday that the Red Cross and Red Crescent aid grouping appealed for 3.8 million euros (HK$37.83 million) to help the hundreds of thousands affected by the recent storms.