SHANGHAI, Jul 11 – Typhoon Chan-hom barrelled towards China’s heavily populated eastern coast on Saturday, forcing the evacuation of almost a million people, shutting transport links and devastating swathes of farmland, the government and state media said.
The powerful typhoon could be the strongest to hit Zhejiang province, south of China’s commercial hub Shanghai, in any July since 1949, China’s National Meteorological Center (NMC) said.
It was expected to make landfall in the afternoon or evening near the port of Ningbo, home to almost six million people, before brushing Shanghai and its population of 23 million.
At noon (0400 GMT) on Saturday, the storm was around 75 kilometres (47 miles) from the Zhejiang coast packing winds of up to 173 km per hour, said the NMC, maintaining its highest red alert for the typhoon despite downgrading it from “super” to “strong”.
Out at sea, Chan-hom was whipping up waves of up to 10 metres high, the US government’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.
Zhejiang has evacuated around 960,000 people and called its entire fishing fleet back to port, state media said. Provincial authorities said earlier that nearly 30,000 vessels had moored safely.
Typhoon winds blew down trees and street signs across Zhejiang and knocked down an unoccupied building in the city of Cixi, provincial television reported.
In Zhejiang’s Sanmen county, local television showed dozens of melons floating in a flooded field, as a farmer lamented his lost harvest. “There might be no crop this year,” he said.
Some parts of Zhejiang were deluged with more than 300 millimetres (12 inches) of rain in the 24 hours before Saturday morning, the local government said.
– ‘Squatting at home’ –
In Shanghai, the city government maintained its second most serious typhoon alert, urging people to stay home and cancelling several public events as rain picked up towards midday.
“We recommend everyone does their best to use ‘squatting at home’ tactics to welcome the typhoon,” the Shanghai government said in a posting on its official microblog.
More than 400 flights at the city’s two airports were cancelled, along with 330 long-distance bus journeys and several trains, according to reports.
Traffic thinned in Shanghai, though enterprising taxi drivers still cruised the streets looking for fares despite the storm, which blew branches off trees.
Chan-hom is forecast to affect a wide swathe of China, also bringing heavy rain to the eastern provinces of Fujian and Jiangsu, the NMC said. Fujian, south of Zhejiang, has evacuated more than 30,000 people and Jiangsu another 10,000.
The typhoon is the second storm to hit China in days after severe tropical storm Linfa made landfall on the coast of Guangdong province further south.
The US Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast that after hitting China, Chan-hom would head towards the Korean peninsula, bringing “gale-force” winds to the west coast of South Korea.
The storm left five people dead in the Philippines earlier in the week and injured more than 20 people in Japan on Friday as strong winds uprooted trees and battered buildings, the Tokyo Broadcasting System broadcaster reported.
Four people were also injured by falling trees in Taiwan when the storm buffeted the island on Friday.