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Death Toll from Prapiroon Rises to 80
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The number of those who lost their lives in typhoon Prapiroon has risen to 80 in China with nine people still missing, said the National Natural Disaster Reduction Committee on Monday.

The tropical storm forced 844,000 people in southern China's Guangdong and Hainan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to evacuate, the committee explained.

Prapiroon made landfall between Yangxi County and Dianbai County in Guangdong at 7:20 PM last Thursday bringing with it torrential rains. It weakened to become a tropical storm after moving into neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Friday.

Fifty-four people in Guangdong and 26 in Guangxi were killed. Seven people are missing in Guangdong and two in Guangxi.

The storm affected more than 10 million people in the area and caused direct economic losses of 7.23 billion yuan (US$900 million). Nearly 30,000 houses were destroyed and 140,000 others damaged, said the committee.

Over 20,000 vessels returned safely to harbor in the southern island province of Hainan before the typhoon arrived.

Prapiroon, which means Rain God in Thai, formed in the South China Sea and was declared a typhoon last Wednesday. The fourth typhoon, Bilis, in mid-July claimed the lives of at least 612 people and the fifth, Kaemi, later the same month killed an estimated 35 people. 

Prapiroon passed through Guangxi on Sunday morning after bringing severe weather to the region for 60 hours. It moved westward to southwest China's Yunnan Province and Vietnam but continued to weaken, according to the regional meteorological observatory in Guangxi.

Reconstruction work is already underway in the Prapiroon-hit areas.

In Guangdong, a province hard hit by typhoons this year, the provincial taxation department announced on Monday eight preferential policies including the reduction or exemption from income taxes to support reconstruction in disaster-hit areas.

In Guangxi eight teams of health workers have been dispatched to Prapiroon-hit areas to instruct people on sanitation which will help in avoiding epidemics, according to the regional disease prevention and control center.

Air traffic and water supplies returned to normal in Hainan by Saturday.

According to China's Central Meteorological Observatory new typhoons are expected to affect coastal areas in southeastern China. Zhejiang Provincial Observatory Station yesterday issued an emergency gale alert, saying that Bopha, one of three tropical storms forming in the western Pacific, was gaining strength.

Relevant departments in this region should pay close attention to the future route of the storm, the station warned.

Bopha, the ninth tropical storm this year, is expected to make landfall in northern Taiwan tonight or tomorrow morning as a relatively weak 'category one' typhoon, reports said.

Tropical storm Saomai was also moving towards Taiwan from the southeast with a maximum sustained wind speed of 119 kilometers per hour and gusts of up to 155 kph, Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said yesterday on its website.

And the ministry has dispatched a work panel to Panjin in northeast China's Liaoning Province where heavy rain has led to severe flooding, according to a news release yesterday.

From July 29 to August 6, heavy flooding has affected 1.26 million people, forced the relocation of 115,000 and destroyed 110,000 homes in eight cities including Shenyang, Dalian, Panjin and Dandong, the release added.

The ministry also allocated 1,500 tents to the disaster-hit region. A total of 15 million yuan (US$1.9 million) of disaster relief funds have been arranged by local governments to relocate and help the victims.

Medium to heavy rains are forecast in southern Yunnan Province after Prapiroon is downgraded from tropical storm to low-pressure cell, the Central Meteorological Office said yesterday.

Thunderstorms, hailstones and gales are forecast in a large area ranging from northeast and north China to regions between the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers over the next two days, the office warned. 

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily August 8, 2006)

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