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Nearly 1 million flee typhoon in China

August 10, 2009|Associated Press

BEIJING — A typhoon pummeled China's eastern coast Sunday, toppling houses, flooding villages and forcing nearly 1 million people to flee to safety. Officials rode bicycles to distribute food to residents trapped by rising waters.

Typhoon Morakot struck after triggering the worst flooding in Taiwan in 50 years, leaving dozens missing and feared dead and toppling a six-story hotel. It earlier lashed the Philippines, killing at least 21 people.

Morakot, which means "emerald" in Thai, made landfall in the eastern Chinese province of Fujian, carrying heavy rain and winds of 74 mph, according to the China Meteorological Administration. At least one child died after a house collapsed on him in Zhejiang province.

A separate storm, Typhoon Etau, hit Japan today, killing at least nine people.

In China, people stumbled with flashlights as the storm enveloped the town of Beibi in Fujian in darkness, the official New China News Agency said. Strong winds uprooted trees or ripped them apart, and farmers tried to catch fish swept out of fish farms by high waves.

Village officials in Zhejiang rode bicycles to hand out drinking water and instant noodles to residents stranded by deep floods, while rescuers tried to reach eight sailors on a cargo ship blown onto a reef off Fujian, the news agency reported.

Morakot was expected to weaken as it traveled north at about 6 mph, but still bring strong winds and heavy rains to Shanghai, the meteorological administration said.

About 1 million people were evacuated from China's eastern coastal provinces -- more than 490,000 in Zhejiang and 505,000 in neighboring Fujian. It is not unusual for Chinese officials to order such mass exoduses in the face of storms.

Five houses were destroyed by heavy rain ahead of the typhoon's landfall, burying four adults and a 4-year-old boy in debris, the news agency said. The child died, it said. An additional 300 houses collapsed and thousands of acres of farmland were inundated.

Dozens of flights were canceled in Fujian and Zhejiang.

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