One million evacuated in face of Typhoon Haitang

MORE than one million people were evacuated as Typhoon Haitang pounded China’s coast Wednesday after tearing through Taiwan, where up four people were killed and one was missing.

Although Haitang slowed after slamming into Taiwan – causing millions of dollars of damage that brought the island to a virtual standstill – it still packed plenty of power when it hit China’s south-eastern province of Fujian overnight.

The first big storm of the season smacked the mainland, packing winds of up to 119km/h and gusts of nearly 140km/h, said the Fujian Meteorological Bureau at Lianjiang city.

Haitang made landfall at 5.10pm (7.15pm AEST) in Lianjiang just north of the provincial capital Fuzhou.

“The wind and rain is very heavy,” Yang Xianhe, an official at the Lianjiang meteorological bureau said.

“The situation for Lianjiang is very serious.”

Officials were unable to ascertain if anyone had been injured but the typhoon was almost certain to cause extensive damage. It was expected to weaken around midnight as it moved northwest at around 10km/h.

Chinese authorities have been on high alert after learning lessons last year when Typhoon Rananim devastated the area, causing massive destruction and killing at least 164 people.

Although Haitang appeared to lack the raw power of Ranamin, frantic round-the-clock preparations that began yesterday saw volunteers and 5000 armed police mobilised to evacuate people to higher ground, reports said.

In Fujian 750,000 people, including more than 300,000 fishermen, had been moved to safety, while 25,000 ships had taken shelter in provincial harbours, China’s Central Television reported.

Just to the north in Zhejiang province, more than 320,000 people have been evacuated, while on the border between the provinces authorities warned of landslides and mudflows and police shut down expressways.

In Shanghai winds gusted up to 74km/h.

In Fuzhou more than one million mobile phone text messages were sent reminding residents to heed precautions, Xinhua news agency said.