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120,000 evacuated, 56 missing as Typhoon Neoguri nears
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About 120,000 people have been evacuated from fish farms and low-lying coastal areas to safer places in south China's Hainan Province as Typhoon Neoguri approaches the island.

The Hainan flood control authorities said that as of mid-day on Friday, 42,000 residents had been displaced in Wenchang, Qionghai, Wanning, Lingshui and Sanya. The evacuation of 5,500 others was still under way.

The island's fishing authorities have removed 80,000 fishermen from boats or fish farms.

Local authorities said on Friday that 56 fishermen were missing in southern China's Hainan Province as typhoon Neoguri approached the region.

The local fishing office lost contact with the 56, who were on three boats sheltered at a reef area of the Xisha Archipelago, on Thursday evening, according to the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

A rescue team was dispatched at 11 AM on Friday, said Chen Chuangfu, deputy director of the provincial marine and fishery department.

Neoguri was 120 kilometers southeast of Wenchang City at 3 PM on Friday, packing winds of about 120 km per hour. It is forecast to make landfall in the coastal area of Wenchang between midnight on Friday and 4 a.m. on Saturday.

The storm will bring heavy rainfall of 100 to 150 millimeters and strong gales.

Train services via ferries across the Qiongzhou Strait between the island and mainland have been suspended. Flights were still running as of early Friday evening.

Some 21,800 fishing boats in Hainan and 20,000 in Guangdong have returned to port.

Guangdong flood control authorities said residents in low-lying areas and dangerous houses had all been evacuated to safety.

(Xinhua News Agency April 19, 2008)

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