Typhoon Megi batters Taiwan

Landslides leave dozens of people missing on the island as powerful storm heads for the Chinese coast.

Officials reported no deaths or injuries in Taiwan as the typhoon headed towards southern China [AFP]

At least seven people have been killed and another 25 are missing after torrential rains triggered by typhoon Megi swept across Taiwan. 

Megi – the strongest northwest Pacific storm since 1990 – triggered a number of landslides as it lashed the island on Friday, including one that buried a temple in Suao, a coastal town in the northeastern Ilan county, leaving two nuns and another person dead.

More than 1,200mm of rainfall also caused a highway to collapse, stranding 400 travellers in 32 vehicles.

One Chinese tour guide and a Taiwanese driver were missing after their bus was hit by mudslides, although their 21 passengers managed to escape, said the National Fire Agency.

Contact was lost with another bus carrying 19 Chinese tourists and two Taiwanese, the agency added.

Elsewhere in the province, flash flooding submerged streets and a railway and forced dozens of schools to shut down.

Megi had already wreaked havoc in the Philippines, killing 36 people and destroying vast tracts of rice and corn crops.

China braces

In southern China, where Megi was said to be heading, flights were disrupted and ferry services cut as some 160,000 people were evacuated. The storm was expected to make landfall either late on Friday or early on Saturday in Fujian province.

The State Oceanic Administration issued a yellow storm surge warning, saying waters could exceed the danger levels, but meteorologists have now said that Megi’s power could be diminishing.

Megi was set to hit Fujian province as a category 1 typhoon, down from a 3, by Saturday and then fade to a tropical storm, forecasting service Tropical Storm Risk said.

“It’s showing signs of weakening,” Lee Tsz-cheung, a senior scientific officer with the Hong Kong Observatory, said. “We expect the intensity will gradually decrease until it makes landfall and decreases further.”

Tens of  thousands of fishing boats in Fujian and neighbouring Guangdong province have been ordered back to port as China prepares for the storm.

“The storm surge could be so devastating that buildings, docks, villages and cities could be destroyed by it,” Xinhua, the official news agency, quoted Bai Yiping, a senior forecaster at the State Oceanic Administration, as saying.

The administration and other government agencies have ordered local authorities to reinforce seawalls and protect fishing facilities, Xinhua said.

Francis Markus, a spokesman for the International Federation of the Red Cross,  told Al Jazeera that Megi could still gain in strength again before it reaches China.

“So it’s not time yet to relax vigilance and alert by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

“I think the authorities have taken no chances and certainly the Red Cross Society of China has kind of stepped up preparations and vigilance right along that coast line to meet any eventuality.”

Thousands evacuated

So far authorities in Fujian have evacuated more than 150,000 people from low-lying areas, while 10,000 others have been moved to safer ground in Guangdong.

China Southern Airlines had already cancelled flights from the Guangdong provincial capital Guangzhou and Xiamen to the Philippines capital Manila, and said service would be further disrupted to Southeast Asian cities.
Domestic flights originating in Guangzhou were also affected, the China Daily said, citing airport sources.
Railway ferry services linking the mainland to the southern  island of Hainan have been suspended through Saturday, and many  coastal cities have also cut ferry services until the storm passes, the newspaper said.
Officials in Guangzhou have called on organisers of next month’s  Asian Games to do everything possible to protect venues for the  sports event, the world’s second-largest after the Olympics.
“The sports gala must open in Guangdong’s provincial capital as  scheduled on November 12,” the China Daily quoted provincial  vice-governor Li Ronggen as saying.  
Megi will be the 13th typhoon to hit China this year, and is the  strongest storm to hit the northwest Pacific in two decades, meteorologists say.

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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