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Typhoon Hits China's Coast, at Least 23 Dead
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Typhoon Chanchu hit China's southern coast yesterday morning, killing at least 23 people, before it was downgraded to a severe tropical storm moving northeast.


The number of casualties could rise. Authorities were still checking the storm's path late yesterday.


Chanchu, the most severe typhoon in 50 years to hit the area around the South China Sea in the month of May, also forced more than 1.2 million residents to flee their homes in Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces, according to reports from the State Flood and Drought Center and the Ministry of Civil Affairs.


The typhoon landed about 2:30 AM yesterday in Shantou, a city in the northeastern tip of Guangdong. Half an hour later, the eye of the typhoon moved across Guangdong to neighboring Fujian Province.


It packed winds of at least 35 meters per second when it hit Shantou.


A landslide toppled three houses in a Shantou suburb, killing eight people, authorities said.


Fujian authorities reported 15 dead.


In Yunxiao County, landslides leveled two houses in a village, killing at least eight people and several others are missing. Rescue work has been hampered because floods have destroyed area highways.


The typhoon also spawned torrential rain in the two provinces. More than 640 millimeters of rainfall was reported in Zhangpu, Fujian Province, as of yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, Guangdong's Chaoyang received about 400 millimeters.


Five major rivers in Fujian surged above alert levels. In the most serious case, water in the Dongxi River rose to 7.05 meters, or one meter above the warning mark, at the Zhao'an power station early yesterday.


Fujian officials put economic losses so far at about 3.9 billion yuan (US$487 million).


Authorities in Fujian and Guangdong have evacuated at least 709,000 and 327,000 people respectively.


More than 119,000 ships were forced to return to shore.


Thousands of people evacuated from fishing boats and low-lying areas were staying with relatives, in tents, or in schools and warehouses.


Zhejiang Province evacuated at least 123,000 people.


The typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm at about 6 AM in Fujian. It was expected to arrive in the East China Sea late last night.


In Shanghai, flights resumed normal operations at the city's two airports yesterday. On Wednesday, some flights to Fujian and other southern Chinese cities were affected.


Taiwan Island also reported the deaths of two women in the southern region of Pingtung due to floods brought by the typhoon.


Also yesterday, 27 Vietnamese fishermen were missing after three boats went down in the South China Sea after being swept up in the storm.


Another 67 people on six boats safely reached an island.


Last weekend, Chanchu tore through the Philippines killing 37 people.


(Xinhua News Agency May 19, 2006)

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