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Typhoon Bilis Hits Fujian
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Tens of thousands of people were evacuated to safety as Typhoon Bilis hit east China's Fujian Province on Friday.

The typhoon struck Xiapu County, 220 kilometers northeast of Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian, at 12:50 AM on Friday, according to the Fujian Provincial Meteorological Observatory.

Top wind speed near the center was 30 meters per second. Bilis is now heading northwest at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour.

About 256,000 people, mainly fishermen and farmers, and 42,000 ships have been evacuated from their homes and out of the sea, according to sources from the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

The provincial fishery bureau directed more than 8,900 fishing boats back to harbor and all those aboard back to land by Friday.

In neighboring Zhejiang Province, 70,000 people were evacuated.

Thunderstorms trigged by the typhoon have forced the cancellation of 14 flights as a safety precaution since Thursday night at Fujian's Changle International Airport, according to airport authorities.

Airport officials said they would reschedule the flights as soon as possible, adding that the flight times are dependent on the weather.

Meanwhile, water conservation workers checked reservoirs in preparation for flooding as the storm was expected to bring rainfall of up to 250 millimeters from Thursday night, reports said.

The provincial government of Fujian has urged all relevant departments to be fully prepared to deal with the storm and any ensuing landslides.

Neighboring Zhejiang Province was hit by strong rainstorms on Friday, with maximum rainfall reaching 239 millimeters.

According to Zhejiang provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters, Bilis brought to the province winds measuring 10 to 12 on the Beaufort Scale at sea and winds measuring six to eight on land.

As of Friday afternoon, rainfall at 32 hydrological stations reached above 100 millimeters, with a maximum of 239 millimeters in Huangyan.

Before it approached the mainland, the tropical storm lashed the province of Taiwan, drenching the island with downpours and leaving one person dead and two missing, reports said.

The typhoon weakened into a tropical storm on early Friday after making landfall near the northeastern port of Ilan around midnight. One man was electrocuted in Taipei on Thursday and two mainland fishermen went missing after a fishing boat ran aground off Taiwan's Matsu Island, officials of the island said.

Taiwan's two largest airlines, EVA Airways and China Airlines, cancelled their flights from the southern city of Kaohsiung to Macao, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, airport officials said.

Flights and trains were mostly grounded on Thursday, officials said. Ferries between Taiwan and Green Island and Orchid Island were also halted, stranding more than 100 tourists.

The storm caused a series of landslides that disrupted traffic in central and eastern Taiwan, but did not inflict major injuries, they said.

"Bilis' wide outer bands will continue to affect Taiwan and residents have to prepare for torrential rains in the next two days," island forecaster Wu Teh-rong said.

The death toll from Bilis rose to 14 with seven missing in the northern Philippines, authorities reported on Friday. It hit the country on Wednesday, causing a series of landslides and flash floods.

(China Daily July 15, 2006)

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