Muifa blows past Shanghai on to Qingdao

Typhoon forecast to slam into the Shandong peninsula after bypassing Shanghai where 500,000 were evacuated.

    China closed down ports, evacuated almost 500,000 residents and bolstered safety measures at a nuclear plant in preparation for a powerful typhoon.

    But contrary to many predictions, the temperamental storm largely bypassed Shanghai, China's commercial capital, and was heading up the coast toward the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong.

    High waters and heavy surf battered China's northern port of Qingdao, as authorities closed beaches, piled sandbags along the waterfront and called more than 30,000 ships back to shore.

    Al Jazeera's meteorologist Kevin Corriveau said he still expected Typhoon Muifa, with wind speeds of 178 kph and torrential rains, to hit land on Monday.

    "By Monday, Typhoon Muifa is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm before making a landfall along coastal Liaoning province in China," Corriveau said.

    "The storm will quickly weaken and move to the northeast where heavy showers may still be expected."

    The National Meteorological Centre of China had said it expected the typhoon to hit the country's eastern seaboard as early as Sunday.

    Shanghai began mass evacuations on Saturday, moving nearly 200,000 people to safety, Shanghai television reported.

    The financial hub's airports also cancelled most of their flights on Saturday and Sunday. Major carrier China Southern Airlines said it had cancelled 128 flights to eastern China.

    China's eastern Zhejiang province had evacuated more than 206,000 people and southern Fujian province another 80,400, the Xinhua news agency reported.

    Highest alert 

    The government has warned the storm could impact a wide area if it hugged the eastern coast and made landfall to the north of Shanghai.

    "In this case, Muifa would affect the whole eastern and northern sea area," the government website said. "The typhoon would still bring winds of up to 144kph and torrential rains to a wide band of eastern China."

    The government has issued its highest alert for waves, with crests of up to 11 metres high on the open sea and up to seven metres in coastal areas.

    "Typhoon Muifa has been churning in the west Pacific Ocean for 11 days," our meteorologist said. "Muifa is now beginning to move a little more quickly."

    "For the last 24 hours, the forecasted track has been moving the storm more to the east away from China’s coastline and into the Yellow Sea."

    Safety measures

    The typhoon was originally forecast to be Shanghai's worst since 2005, when Typhoon Matsa killed seven people and caused $202m in damage.

    Shanghai had earlier warned it may limit or halt metro services for the first time ever due to a typhoon, while bullet train services in eastern China could also be disrupted.

    China also stepped up safety measures at its massive Qinshan nuclear plant, located along its eastern coast, state television said.

    "As Muifa continues to move to the north, and taking into consideration any more changes to the track, residents of the Korean Peninsula also need to be on alert," our meteorologist said. "After weeks of rain and devastating floods, both North and South Korea are now extremely vulnerable to more flooding."

    Muifa has already battered Taiwan and Japan. Last week, it killed four people in the Philippines even though it did not make landfall.


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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