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Agence France Presse

Nearly One Million People Flee China Typhoon


Rescuers try to get hold of a man who is stranded by floods as Typhoon Morakot approaches in Shanghai August 9, 2009. A child was killed and houses were flattened after Typhoon Morakot battered China's eastern coast on Sunday, bringing torrential rain and high waves likely to disrupt life and business across the heavily commercial region. (REUTERS/Stringer)

BEIJING - China rushed nearly one million people out of harm's away as Typhoon Morakot slammed into its coast Sunday after triggering Taiwan's worst flooding in 50 years, leaving at least four people dead.

After also leaving tens of thousands trapped in Taiwan, the powerful storm landed in China's Fujian province at 4:20 pm (0820 GMT), the provincial meteorological bureau said.

Earlier in the day, a four-year-old child died in the Chinese city of Wenzhou after his family's house collapsed in heavy rains and winds, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

The child was buried along with four adults in debris and died after emergency treatment failed, Xinhua said, citing the city's flood-control headquarters.

Morakot pounded Taiwan over the weekend with powerful winds and torrential rain, forcing the government to deploy the military to rescue stranded residents, officials said.

Television footage showed a woman in tears reporting that her daughter and husband had plunged into a river when a flash flood swept away their car in the central county of Nantou.

"My daughter called me twice saying: 'We're being washed away! Hurry, hurry!' Then I lost them," the sobbing woman told reporters.

Officials said three people were confirmed dead and at least 31 were missing as Morakot dumped a record 2.5 metres (100 inches) of rain on the southern county of Pingtung.

At least 10,000 people were trapped in three coastal townships, Pingtung deputy magistrate Chung Chia-pin said, and officials said tens of thousands of other people were also trapped in the counties of Tainan and Chiayi.

"This is the worst flooding in Chiayi in 50 years," county magistrate Chen Ming-wen told reporters.

A typhoon that struck Taiwan in August 1959 killed 667 people and left some 1,000 missing.

Across the Taiwan Strait, more than 505,000 people were evacuated from the Fujian coast and another 490,000 were relocated in the neighbouring province of Zhejiang, Xinhua reported.

Zhejiang issued a red alert earlier Sunday as it registered a maximum wind speed of nearly 180 kilometres (113 miles) an hour around the coastal city of Taizhou, Xinhua said.

Gale-force winds were expected to persist for at least three days and waves were forecast to reach as high as seven metres.

More than 35,000 ships were called in to port as the storm approached, Xinhua quoted Zhejiang flood-control headquarters as saying.

A cargo ship was stranded in rough seas and rescuers were trying to rescue its eight sailors, the agency reported.

Among the missing in Taiwan were 14 workers who disappeared when their makeshift shelter beside a river in southern Kaohsiung county was washed away by rising floodwaters early Sunday.

A bridge linking Kaohsiung and Pingtung counties collapsed and a local television station cited a motorist who narrowly escaped plunging into the river as saying he feared two cars had fallen in.

Armoured vehicles and marine landing craft, as well as rubber dinghies, were mobilised in a rescue operation involving at least 1,200 troops, Taiwan's defence ministry said.

Television footage showed a six-storey hotel in Taitung, southeastern Taiwan, collapsing in the floods. Staff and guests had already been evacuated, the reports said.

The typhoon has caused at least 2.1 billion Taiwan dollars (64 million US) in agricultural damage while 170,000 houses were left without power and 440,000 homes without water, according to officials.

Morakot also left floods and landslides in its wake after grazing the Philippines on its way to Taiwan.

The Manila government's civil defence office said the storm had left a total of 21 people dead, including two French tourists and a Belgian, with seven other people still missing.

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