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Wipha kills 5, weakens to tropical storm
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Typhoon Wipha spared Shanghai and Hangzhou the brunt of its fury but still caused extensive damage in the east coast with torrential rains and strong winds.


Five people were killed and three were missing in the aftermath of the typhoon, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said last night, without giving details of the casualties.


Xinhua reported earlier that one died when his house collapsed, and three were injured in Zhejiang Province as Wipha landed in Cangnan, Wenzhou, at 2:30 AM with winds of up to 160 kph.


It destroyed 669 houses, disrupted power supplies to 1,867 villages, and affected about 5 million people, causing losses worth 2.9 billion yuan ($380 million) in Zhejiang.


Forecast to be potentially the most destructive typhoon in a decade, Wipha forced the evacuation of more than 2.6 million people in East China.


At 3 PM on Wednesday, the typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm and was moving northwest to Anhui Province.


"The wind was at its full force between 2:30 AM and 3:30 AM. I heard loud thumps as objects whipped by the wind pounded the house and the ground," Lin Dezan, a villager in Cangnan, told China Daily on the mobile phone.


"The house was in total darkness because the wind had knocked down utility poles."


When at about 5 AM, he stepped out of his home, he saw debris of wooden sticks, broken roof tiles and bamboo structures used for seaweed breeding. "It was a total mess."


Cangnan, where Typhoon Saomai left 153 people dead last year, saw 129,978 people evacuated on the eve of Wipha's landfall.


In Shanghai, schools remained closed Wednesday, at least 71 flights delayed or postponed, and ferry crossings and other transport links disrupted.


Residents in the financial metropolis appeared composed Wednesday, as companies allowed their employees to leave office earlier.


"It (preparations for the typhoon) seems a bit of an overreaction," said George Patton, 38, an Australian lawyer living in Shanghai.


In Fujian Province, about 486,900 people were affected. The typhoon destroyed some 4,700 houses, forced 431,000 people to evacuate, and ruined 33,550 hectares of crops, inflicting losses of more than 1 billion yuan ($133 million).


(China Daily September 20, 2007)

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