Hainan fishermen missing, boats called back as typhoon blows in

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 April, 2008, 12:00am

Fifty-six fishermen were missing as authorities ordered about 34,000 fishing boats back to port and 40,000 residents evacuated in Hainan and Guangdong yesterday, as the earliest and possibly strongest typhoon in six decades threatened southern China.

Officials also urged people in Fujian and Guangxi to prepare for Typhoon Neoguri.

In Hong Kong, the Observatory raised the No3 strong wind warning last night. The typhoon, at 1am today, was 420km southwest of the city and forecast to move north at 14km/h towards western Guangdong.

Xinhua reported that contact with crews on three boats was lost near the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea on Thursday night. Quoting Hainan flood-control and drought-relief headquarters, it said a rescue team was sent yesterday to the islands, but it did not make contact.

No typhoon has hit China this early in the year since 1949. The typhoon season usually starts in May.

In Haikou , strong gales caused all ferries across the Qiongzhou Strait between Hainan and Guangdong to be cancelled yesterday. Media reports said 22,000 fishing boats had returned to Hainan port.

All ferries across the strait between Sanya and Guangzhou were suspended for two days from yesterday due to Neoguri's gales.

At least 81 domestic flights from Haikou were cancelled, while another 160 flights scheduled for today are likely to be affected. At Haikou's Meilan airport, only four aircraft were visible on the apron yesterday.

Neoguri was passing by Hainan last night, lashing the cities of Wanning, Wenchang and Sanya. Forecasters said the typhoon, with a radius of 300km, could unleash up to 180mm of rain on Hainan.

Its eye was moving north at about 14km/h last night and was expected to hit Guangdong near Yangjiang today.

Chan Chik-cheung, a Hong Kong Observatory senior scientific officer, said Neoguri was heading north and would make landfall in western Guangdong today.

Chen Lei, deputy commander of the State Headquarters of Flood Control and Drought Relief, said Neoguri would be the earliest typhoon to affect southern China since 1949.

Chinese scientists said the reason for the early typhoon was global warming and La Nina.

Additional reporting by Fox Yi Hu