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E. China on high alert as Wipha approaches
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East China is on high alert as typhoon Wipha, upgraded from a regular to a severe typhoon on Monday afternoon, approaches the country's coastal areas.

Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian are preparing to face the full brunt of Wipha. The Shanghai meteorological observatory has warned that it could cause "the worst damage in recent years."

Both the Zhejiang and Fujian bureaus have issued warnings and recalled all maritime vessels.

A senior official with the Zhejiang Maritime Safety Administration said that Wipha would hit the province directly, unlike this year’s previous typhoons that landed first in Taiwan before hitting the mainland.

"The impact and damage from Wipha could be extraordinary, and gales and waves caused by it could be the strongest of this year," the official said.

Wipha, packing winds of up to 183 kilometers per hour, is heading northwest at a speed of 20 kilometers per hour, reported the Zhejiang meteorological observatory at 6 PM on Monday.

At 6:00 PM, its center was located about 750 kilometers southeast of Jiaojiang, Taizhou, in Zhejiang.

The Zhejiang flood control headquarters believe that Wipha could develop into a super typhoon as it was still gathering strength on Monday evening.

It is very likely to hit the southern areas between Cangnan and Xiangshan on the Zhejiang coast late Tuesday or early Wednesday, the Zhejiang observatory said.

Wipha could sweep through Zhejiang Province and hit Wenzhou, Taizhou, Jinhua and a few other cities, the observatory said.

But it did not exclude the possibility Wipha could skirt the coast without making a landfall.

If the typhoon makes a landfall, it is expected to cause great losses to Zhejiang, said Mao Linsheng, vice governor of Zhejiang.

Mao warned local authorities against strong winds, heavy rain, landslides and especially flooding in cities.

The Zhejiang provincial flood control headquarters has issued a warning to the public and told local authorities to prepare to relocate residents, patrol reservoirs and brace for geological disasters.

The Zhejiang provincial government has also ordered local authorities to store food and water.

Zhejiang-registered fishing vessels have received orders to return to harbor. Nearly 30,000 fishing vessels had returned by Monday afternoon.

A three-month fishing ban on the East China Sea ended only on Sunday.

Passenger ferries between Zhejiang's islands and the mainland have been suspended.

The Fujian provincial government also issued a warning against the typhoon on Monday afternoon.

The Taiwan authorities have issued both sea and land warnings for the typhoon. The meteorological stations in Shanghai and Fujian have also issued typhoon warnings, requiring all vessels to return to shore or alter their course to avoid it.

China Meteorological Administration activated its emergency response system for typhoons on Monday, demanding that meteorological bureaus in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu and related departments of the administration monitor Wipha around the clock.

The National Meteorological Center was ordered to report Wipha’s location and provide forecasts every hour as well as consult with provincial meteorological bureaus every three hours.

The China Meteorological Administration has also dispatched work groups to related provinces.

(Xinhua News Agency September 18, 2007)

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