At least 571,376 people in China -- 305,376 in Zhejiang and 266,000 in Fujian -- have been evacuated, from the path of Typhoon Saomai, which has upgraded to extremely powerful.
Meteorologists said Saomai, the eighth storm to hit China this year, would probably hit the Chinese mainland between Xiapu County of Fujian and Yueqing Bay of Zhejiang on Thursday noon or evening.
At around 9:00 AM on Thursday, local observatory said, Saomai, which is the Vietnamese name for the planet Venus, was located approximately 195 km southeast of Zhejiang's Wenzhou.
With winds reaching 216 km per hour at its center, the typhoon was moving northwest at a speed of 25 km per hour. Forecasters from Zhejiang said Wenzhou would be under a head-on attack by the powerful storm.
Li Yuzhu, head of the Zhejiang provincial observatory, said Wednesday at a video conference on fight against typhoon, "Saomai, packing winds of 216 km per hour, has outpaced forecasts and outrun the powerful Typhoon Rananim that claimed 164 lives in Zhejiang in August 2004."
In Wenzhou alone, 42 people from nine villages were killed and five were missing in a landslide caused by Rananim.
In the adjacent Fujian Province, more than 36,000 ships have returned to harbor and outdoor activities in all 26,800 schools in the province have been suspended, as Saomai approaches with Bopha, forecast to be the ninth tropical storm to hit China this year, close behind.
Meteorologists believe two storms moving together can enhance each other's strength to create an even stronger climatic event. But latest information from local observatory showed that Bopha weakened to a low pressure at around 4:00 PM Wednesday. It will affect Fujian by a smaller degree, sources with the observatory said.
In a related development, Hong Kong Airport Authority announced that 17 Hong Kong-Taiwan flights had been canceled or delayed by 9:15 AM on Thursday, as Saomei is also approaching Taiwan.
Of these flights, six were canceled while 11 others were delayed.
According to Taiwan meteorological departments, Typhoon Saomei has arrived at the sea waters about 180 km off Keelung by 8:00 AM on Thursday.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2006)