Typhoon Forces a Million Chinese to Flee Their Homes

BEIJING, China, July 21, 2005 (ENS) - Many of the one million people who fled before the heavy rains and stinging winds of Typhoon Haitang on Wednesday began to return home today as the storm weakened and blew off to the west.

Three people lost their lives in the typhoon that ravaged the southeastern coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian, and at least 21 people were injured, the state run Xinhua news agency reported.

On the island of Taiwan, the death toll from Typhoon Haitang has risen to 12 with two people still missing, as the storm continues to batter some parts of the island. The Central Weather Bureau has renewed a warning about torrential rains in southern and eastern Taiwan.

In the far south of Taiwan, 3,000 tourists were stranded as violent rainstorms and floodwaters damaged a bridge and cut off roads, local media said. The government planned to send chartered jets to bring the tourists out, reports said.


A Red Cross assessment team views the damage in a flood affected village. (Photo courtesy IFRC)
On the mainland, flooding is making the delivery of emergency provisions difficult, but at least two emergency teams have arrived in the affected areas, at Wenzhou and Lishui, officials said.

Farmland and crops were destroyed, highways were blocked and power lines came down across the two affected provinces, and officials estimated costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

As emergency crews struggled to reach the typhoon victims, Chinese President Hu Jintao said here Wednesday that China will be more actively involved in Red Cross activities and will conduct long-term cooperation with the Red Cross organizations of other countries.

Hu, honorary chairman of the Red Cross Society of China, held talks with Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Wednesday in Beijing. The talks centered on the challenges the ICRC faces in armed conflicts around the world and the relevance of international humanitarian law in today's contexts.

The meeting also laid the groundwork for future cooperation between the ICRC and China in the humanitarian field.

"China attaches great importance to the cause of the Red Cross and supports the Chinese Red Cross Society to take an active part in the various activities of the international Red Cross movement and its long-term cooperation with the Red Cross organizations of other countries," Hu told Kellenberger.

Kellenberger said the ICRC values China's role in the international Red Cross movement and hopes for closer ties with the Chinese government and the Chinese Red Cross Society.


ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger shakes hands with China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing at the announcement of the Red Cross office to be opened in Beijing. (Photo by Natalie Behring courtesy ICRC)
On Wednesday morning, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing signed an agreement with Kellenberger, formally announcing the establishment of an ICRC representative office in Beijing.

Li said he hopes the two sides can strengthen cooperation and make joint efforts to promote the development of international humanitarian causes.

ICRC's delegate-general for Asia and the Pacific, Reto Meister said opening of the Beijing delegation fulfils the ICRC's ambition to maintain dialogue with all major, global actors which include the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

China is subject to deadly storms and floods annually. According to information released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs last week, heavy rains since July 6 have resulted in severe floods, landslides and mud-rock flows in the central province of Sichuan.

Forty-nine people had lost their lives, the ministry said, nine people are still missing, 428 thousand people had been evacuated for resettlement and 11.23 million people were affected in 21 counties. Six county towns are flooded including Dazhou City, which is the worst affected.

China's summer floods have affected 90 million people to date, the official Xinhua news agency said Sunday, confirming an earlier report that 764 people have been killed and 191 others are missing.