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S. China Braces Itself for Typhoon
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A killer typhoon picked up speed yesterday as it spun closer to south China, forcing Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou to raise the alarm. Typhoon Chanchu is the strongest on record to blow over the South China Sea this month.

The eye of Typhoon Chanchu (meaning "pearl" in Cantonese) is expected to pass just east of Hong Kong today before it slams into Guangdong Province, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

Chanchu was about 440 kilometers south of Shanwei in Guangdong at 8 PM yesterday, moving at 20-23 kilometers per hour (kph) and packing winds of 162 kph near the storm's center.

It roared towards south China after wreaking havoc in the Philippines last weekend, killing at least 37 people and leaving thousands homeless.

The observatory has also warned people to stay away from the shoreline as Chanchu approaches because of the threat of swells.

The Guangzhou Meteorological Station forecast that the typhoon might land in the coastal regions between Shenzhen and Raoping County this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

But Chanchu could also change direction and head towards Fujian Province or the Taiwan Straits, said Huang Zhong, the chief weatherman with the Guangzhou station.

He said the typhoon was expected to bring rainstorms to most parts of Guangdong starting last night, adding the stormy weather would last until tomorrow.

Wang Yongxin, chief forecaster of Guangdong Marine Observatory, said Shantou in the eastern part of the province could be hardest hit.

Rescue ships and helicopters of the South China Sea Rescue Bureau were standing by yesterday.

Fujian and Hainan provinces are also bracing themselves for the impending typhoon. Hainan authorities have ordered a halt to sea and rail transport across the Qiongzhou Strait between the island and Guangdong.

In Shenzhen, local authorities issued landslide warnings and were ready to evacuate people if necessary. Advertising billboards in the city were either being reinforced or removed.

Once signals of a strong typhoon or strong storm are sent, schools are to suspend classes immediately, according to education officials.

The city will open all temporary shelters while the typhoon rages, and the government has advised people to stay indoors, close all windows and remove flowerpots from balconies.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2006)

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