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China 'over the worst' as deadly storm heads for Japan

Video by Richard TOMPSETT

Text by Mehdi CHEBIL

Latest update : 2009-08-10

Dozens of lives have been claimed across northeastern Asia as Typhoon Morakot and tropical storm Etau have devastated the region. Japan, which is now bracing itself for the arrival of Etau, has seen at least thirteen deaths due to flash floods.

A deluge of rain in northeast Asia has claimed dozens of lives as tropical storm Etau approaches Japan only days after Typhoon Morakot battered China’s southeastern coast and the island of Taiwan.


The typhoon whipped across the Philippines, Taiwan, and China before being downgraded to a tropical storm by Sunday afternoon, according to China’s national meteorological centre.


Japan’s meteorological agency forecasted heavy rains, choppy seas, and wind gusts of up to 126 km/h would hit the archipelago on Monday, prompting the evacuation of more than 47,000 people in the country’s western region.


Local officials said on Monday at least 13 people were killed when stormy weather triggered mudslides and flash floods.


“The water flashed by in just a moment. I was holding on to the power pole and waiting for an hour and half”, said a man to Japanese broadcaster NHK.


The scenes are reminiscent of the flooding seen in Taiwan and mainland China, where the densely-populated Zhejian and Fujian provinces were battered by Typhoon Morakot over the weekend.

“Worst is over”


“The worst is now over in China, and Morakot will miss Shanghai further up the coast” reported Henry Morton, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Beijing, on Monday.

Taiwanese rescue services have started to assess the storm’s damages, saying that at least 12 people have been confirmed dead and 52 are still missing.


Thousands of people are still cut off by fallen bridges and raging rivers, prompting the military to launch a rescue operation involving armoured vehicles, marine landing craft, and over 1,200 troops.


“250 cm of rain dumped in some part of the island have triggered the worst floods in decades” said Morton, referring to Taiwan, where a typhoon back in August 1959 killed 667 people.


Mass evacuation


While the typhoon was wreaking havoc in central and southern Taiwan, mainland Chinese authorities were preparing for its impact by organising a mass-evacuation of around one million people from its southeastern coast.


The official Xinhua news agency says that thousands of hectares of land are now under water and over 1,800 houses collapsed in the province of Zhejiang alone, going on to estimate that the typhoon has caused $322 million in damages.


However, just one fatality has been reported so far on mainland China, a four-year old child who died in the city of Wenzhou after his family’s house collapsed.


Authorities “fully prepared”


The relatively low death toll throughout the region can be explained by the authorities’ state of readiness.


“The Chinese are used to this sort of operation and they were fully prepared. One million people evacuated in a couple days is a major logistical operation, and people have already started the cleaning-up operation in the areas worst affected where the storm has now passed”, said Morton, citing a major clean-up bill “in the region of one billion dollars”


Typhoons and tropical storms regularly hit Japan, Taiwan, and China between July and September, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean before weakening over land.

Date created : 2009-08-10