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Typhoon Saomai Makes Landfall
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Typhoon Saomai, the eighth to hit China this year, made landfall in Cangnan County, east China's Zhejiang Province, at 5:25 PM Thursday, said the provincial meteorological observatory.

The eye of the typhoon had a wind velocity of 216 km per hour when it struck, said the observatory. "It's the strongest typhoon to land in southeast China in the past 50 years," said Xi Jinping, secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China.

The typhoon is lashing Cangnan with gales and rainstorms and has already destroyed more than 1,000 houses, cut 97 percent of power lines in the county and 40 percent of local communication links. More than 80 people have been injured and 20,000 hectares of rice fields flooded, according to local sources. 

As of 11:00 PM the average precipitation in the county was above 300 millimeters. At the  Changchan observation station the aggregate rainfall during the past 15 hours was measured at 466 millimeters.

The provincial land and resources department, together with the observatory, issued a warning on Thursday, saying the majority of cities and counties in southeast Zhejiang were under threat by possible weather related disasters.

Saomai also brought torrential rainstorms to the neighboring Fujian Province. Its provincial observatory predicted that the precipitation in some parts of the province could surpass 150 millimeters on Friday.

The Zhejiang provincial observatory said the wind strength of Saomai further weakened at 9:00 PM and the wind velocity in the typhoon's eye had dropped to about 144 km per hour. The eye kept moving northwestward at a speed of 20 km per hour to east China's Jiangxi Province.

The flood control department in Jiangxi said they'd initiated their typhoon plan which is designed to reduce as much as possible the damage and losses which would be caused by Saomai. 

Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who is also chief of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFCDRH), urged on Thursday that governments at all levels in Saomai-hit areas launch local emergency plans in good time to fight against the disaster under the unified leadership of the State Council. Hui stressed that the government must give top priority to safeguarding people's lives and the safety of ships and reservoirs.

The SFCDRH issued a level-III warning on Thursday and has sent work teams consisting of officials from the ministries of water resources, civil affairs and finance, to Zhejiang and Fujian provinces to organize disaster relief work.

So far, about 20,000 soldiers and militiamen have been deployed on China's eastern border to boost rescue and disaster relief efforts as Typhoon Saomai strikes. Army units helped people in danger to evacuate and reinforced water control facilities to prevent floods, according to military sources stationed in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.

Twelve fishermen were rescued by frontier troops in Ningbo City in Zhejiang at 6:10 PM after being stranded at sea for about an hour due to engine problems. A car belonging to a journalist remains stuck under a telegraph pole and a tree in the county of Cangnan. The vehicle belongs to the Youth Times magazine and it was being used to take an injured citizen to hospital. There were four people inside the car--the injured person, an official with the county government, a journalist of the magazine and a driver. The rescue operation was hindered by the downpour.

Still in Cangnan at least 30 farmers were trapped in their collapsed homes in the township of Jinxiang. The local government and army are organizing rescue operations. Also affected by the typhoon is neighboring Fujian Province where two deaths have been reported and 12 people are missing. The maritime department said the two dead were from the city of Fuding but their identities remain unknown.

Strong winds caused two ships from Taiwan to capsize at sea near the city's Shacheng Harbor leaving eight Taiwanese missing. Also in this area another fishing boat from Fujian struck a reef and the four crew have not been found, said the department.

At least 1.3 million people in China -- 765,486 in Zhejiang and about 571,000 in Fujian -- have been evacuated from the path of Typhoon Saomai which has now been upgraded to extremely powerful. 

More than 30 tons of bleaching chemicals, three tons of insecticide and vaccines against acute intestinal diseases and hepatitis for 30,000 people have been stockpiled by local health authorities. And provincial civil affairs departments have gathered together 300,000 pieces of clothing, 100,000 cases of fast food and set aside 15 million yuan (US$1.9 million) as relief funds. 

(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2006)

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