China Braces for Typhoon Conson; Vietnam Evacuates Thousands

By Emma Graham-Harrison Ngo Thi Ngoc Chau | July 16, 2010

Southern China on Friday battened down to await the arrival of Typhoon Conson, gathering strength over the South China Sea, and Vietnam deployed nearly 3,000 troops to areas in the path of the storm.

Swollen rivers and landslides have killed 135 people across China since the start of July and another 41 are missing, state media reported.

With the country on alert for its worst floods in years, the arrival of Conson — which cut power and killed at least 38 people in the Philippines — will add to the misery.

Tropical Storm Risk (http://www.tropicalstormrisk.com) said Conson had strengthened as it neared the Chinese island of Hainan. It was due to pass just south of Hainan in the early hours of Saturday, before heading to northern Vietnam.

An orange alert for wave surges up to six meters [app. 20 feet] was issued for the South China Sea, with slightly smaller surges off Hainan and export powerhouse Guangdong province.

In Hainan, an island province off southeastern China popular with tourists, 24,000 fishing boats have been called back to port.

Ferries from Hainan to the mainland have been suspended, stranding hundreds of travelers, and some flights have been cancelled, Xinhua added.

The Hainan government is on guard against floods and landslides, and has asked people living in low-lying areas to move to safety, it said on its website (www.hainan.gov.cn).

The island is an important producer of rubber, sugar, bananas and natural gas, which could all be affected by the storm.

Ten fishing boats seeking shelter in one of the Paracel Islands, occupied by China but claimed by Vietnam, had sunk, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The typhoon will then head towards Vietnam’s northern provinces, where the government has evacuated more than 200,000 people and drafted in 2,800 soldiers in anticipation to help with relief efforts.

BAD WEATHER ACROSS EAST ASIA
Typhoons and tropical storms regularly hit the Philippines, China, Taiwan and Japan in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea before normally weakening over land.

In western Japan, heavy rain which started on Tuesday has caused mudslides and floods. Six people were killed and eight are missing, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a news conference, calling for caution in affected areas.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said there may be heavy rain in western to northeastern Japan on Friday. The agency has also issued warnings of mudslides and floods in some areas of southern and central Japan.

In Manila, nearly 10,500 people remained in temporary shelters after more than 18,000 homes were either destroyed or damaged by Typhoon Conson. Dozens were damaged when a barge plowed into rows of shanties in Manila Bay.

Rains that have been lashing other parts of China showed few signs of easing, with damage and danger continuing to mount.

In eastern Jiangxi province alone, 12 reservoirs had overflowed after days of torrential rain, causing flash floods and prompting the evacuation of more than 70,000 people, Xinhua said.

Overall, about 35.5 million people across southern China have been affected by the downpours, and more than 1.2 million have been relocated.

(Additional reporting by Huang Yan and Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Manny Mogato in Manila, Ngo Thi Ngoc Chau in Hanoi and Yoko Kubota in Tokyo; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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