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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

International news from swissinfo, the Swiss news platform

International news from swissinfo, the Swiss news platformTyphoon heads for China after hammering Taiwan

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Typhoon Haitang swirled toward China's southeast coast on Tuesday after killing up to four people in Taiwan, injuring 29 others and wreaking damage estimated at $14 million.

The once super-strong storm had lost some of its power while churning over the island and is now packing maximum windspeeds of 126 km/h (78 mph) and gusts of up to 162 mph, making it a moderate typhoon, said Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau. The eye of Haitang was roughly halfway across the 100-km wide Taiwan Strait and expected to hit China's Fujian province within hours.

China evacuated over 600,000 people from the typhoon's path on Monday after Haitang slammed into Taiwan and forced offices, schools and financial markets to shut across the island.

Business resumed on Tuesday, with city workers clearing away uprooted trees, street signs and billboards toppled by Haitang's lashing winds and heavy rains.

Authorities in China's coastal rice-growing provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian ordered back to port some 17,000 fishing and merchant ships with a total of more than 300,000 aboard, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

Travel services were suspended and seaside hotels in Fujian closed to guests, Xinhua said.

The official death toll from the typhoon stood at two in Taiwan, though the National Fire Agency said it was investigating the cause of death of another two bodies found floating in water. Two more people were listed as missing.

Weather forecasters said torrential rain would continue to pummel Taiwan through to Wednesday, and warned residents to watch out for flash floods and landslides. Haitang has already dumped more than one meter (over 3 ft) of rain on mountainous areas.

The Council of Agriculture estimated damage from the storm at least T$454.6 million ($14.2 million).

Typhoons gather strength from warm sea waters and tend to dissipate after making landfall. They frequently hit Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and southern China during a season that starts in early summer and lasts until late autumn.

In 2001, one of Taiwan's deadliest years for storms, Typhoon Toraji killed 200 people. A few months later, Typhoon Nari caused Taipei's worst flooding on record and killed 100.

Reuters

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