Flights canceled as China braces for typhoon

Storm heads to land after leaving 39 dead in Philippines

Published July 16, 2010 12:51PM (EDT)

Thousands of people were evacuated in southern China as Typhoon Conson crept toward land after killing 39 people and leaving a trail of destruction in the Philippines. Flights and ferries were canceled and emergency workers geared up for torrential rains and lashing winds.

Conson had been downgraded to a tropical storm after blowing out of the Philippines, where the number of missing climbed to 84. But it strengthened again into a typhoon soon after with gusts of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour), China's National Meteorological Center said.

It was expected to make landfall on Hainan island Friday night, though it could veer to the west and avoid a direct hit.

Heavy rain fell on Hainan and conditions were dark and windy, said a receptionist who answered the phone at the Mandarin Oriental in the city of Sanya.

"If the wind starts to pick up, it may uproot some of the smaller trees. We are recommending to guests that they stay indoors," said the woman, who would not give her name.

Authorities dispatched relief workers in preparation for the storm and ordered thousands of boats to dock. More than 150 passengers were stranded at a port after ferry services were suspended, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Twenty-eight flights were also canceled.

"We're expecting heavy rains this afternoon and possible high waves," said an official at the provincial meteorological bureau who refused to give her name as is common among Chinese bureaucrats. "Even though typhoons are common in our region, we are still taking precautionary safety measures."

In addition to Hainan, parts of Guangdong province and neighboring Guangxi region will see torrential rains over the next 24 hours as Conson moves toward the northwest at 9 to 13 mph (15 to 20 kph).

More than 20,000 people in Guangdong were evacuated from areas in the projected path of the typhoon, Xinhua said.

The storm should continue its northwest path inland over the weekend, heading toward southwest China and northern Vietnam.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged authorities in 23 northern and central provinces on Friday to ban ships and fishing trawlers from sailing. He also ordered local governments to evacuate people from high-risk areas and to advise others to stockpile food and medicine.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in a nationally televised emergency meeting, scolded the weather bureau for failing to predict that Conson would hit Manila, which left government agencies unprepared for the onslaught.

At least 39 people died in the Philippines, including 14 fishermen whose bodies were recovered by the navy, coast guard and policemen in Bataan province, west of Manila, on Thursday. Nine died when a wayward oil barge slammed into their boats, which were moored near Mariveles town, the coast guard said.

Five others were found at sea off Bataan, where their boats sank.

The number of missing soared as emergency crews restored electricity and fixed communication problems between Manila and nearby provinces on Luzon island, the national disaster agency said.

Many parts of China have been pounded by storms this summer, though areas expected to be hit by Conson had not been seriously affected so far. Flooding and subsequent landslides in communities along the Yangtze River and other scattered parts of China have killed 135 people so far this month, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. Direct economic losses in July reached 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion).

Conson was not expected to hit the areas in China already battered by weeks of flooding.

In Japan, police said landslides caused by heavy rains killed two people in Hiroshima while another was swept away in a swollen river. Eight people were missing across western and central Japan.


Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Jay Alabaster in Tokyo and Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.

By Chi-chi Zhang

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