Typhoon kills 18 in trail of destruction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 August, 2006, 12:00am

Prapiroon forces 500,000 people to flee and destroys hundreds of homes

Typhoon Prapiroon killed at least 18 people on the mainland and forced the evacuation of nearly half a million, but the damage was less serious than expected because it weakened rapidly once over land.

Prapiroon, the fifth severe storm to hit southern China this year, weakened to a tropical storm as it moved from Guangdong to Guangxi . It hit the capital of Guangxi, Nanning , early yesterday evening, bringing heavy downpours.

It was heading westwards at 15km/h last night but was gradually losing strength. The typhoon killed 17 people in Guangdong, including at least three in Shenzhen, one in Zhuhai and another in Yangjiang . Most were killed by falling objects. A resident in Guangxi was also killed. In Yangjiang, which took the full brunt of the typhoon on Thursday, more than 800 houses collapsed and 732,000 residents were affected. The storm pelted some districts with more than 100mm of rain.

The Guangdong government evacuated 297,050 people from 10 coastal cities. In Guangxi, at least 219,000 people living in low-lying areas were moved to safety.

In Yulin city , Guangxi, local authorities reported flooding and at least two landslides. Water levels in reservoirs were lowered in case of flooding.

Prapiroon wrecked crops and uprooted trees in Guangdong and Guangxi. Some places briefly lost power. The typhoon also severely interrupted marine and aviation traffic in the provinces. In Shenzhen, more than 172 flights were delayed or cancelled on Thursday, while more than 40 flights were affected in Guangzhou. But the airlines yesterday resumed normal services as weather conditions improved, with Prapiroon moving out of Guangdong.

The airport in Zhangjiang , which was closed on Thursday, also reopened. In Nanning, flights could land but were unable to take off.

All vessels were called back to port before the storm. But in Guangxi, 40 vessels carrying a total of 100 fishermen were unable to reach shore because of heavy winds and rough seas, Xinhua reported.

The navy and marine police mounted rescue missions but could not get near the vessels because of heavy seas. The local government said rescuers would stay in constant contact with the ships, with no deaths reported by last night.

The destruction brought by Prapiroon was less severe than anticipated and not as bad as that caused by tropical storm Bilis or typhoon Kaemi, which ravaged Fujian and nearby provinces last month. Bilis killed more than 600 people on the mainland, making it the deadliest storm to hit China since 1997.

'We are glad that Prapiroon has not caused too much damage. It weakened very fast once it landed. The area affected by it is also smaller than Bilis,' said a staff member from Yangjiang flood control and drought relief headquarters.

He said that local governments had made full preparations to reduce the typhoon's damage as much as possible.

'All government leaders have to be at the frontline to direct rescue work. We have despatched officers into mountains and other remote areas to warn the residents,' he said.

CCTV reports said the Ministry of Public Security yesterday asked police to draw up an emergency plan for typhoons.