China Struck by Fifth Typhoon, 500,000 Evacuated

BEIJING, China, July 25, 2006 (ENS) - Typhoon Kaemi struck the coast of East China's Fujian Province this afternoon, forcing more than 500,000 residents to flee their homes and businesses. Frequent storms and typhoons since June have resulted in heavy casualties and huge losses. Kaemi is the second typhoon to hit China within two weeks.

Packing winds of up to 120 kilometers per hour, the fifth typhoon this year smashed into Taiwan overnight, causing widespread disruption. Torrential rains swept the central, southern, and eastern parts of Taiwan and the offshore islands of Penghu and Kinmen.

The storm made landfall on the mainland at Jinjiang city at 3:50 pm, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

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Typhoon Kaemi blows across a Jinjiang street. (Photo courtesy China Meteorological Administration)
Meteorologists forecast that Kaemi would move northwest and bring torrential rains to Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi and Zhejiang provinces in the next two days.

More than 435,000 people were evacuated from Fujian, while another 80,000 were moved from their homes in neighbouring Zhejiang Province.

The typhoon had earlier brushed past the Philippines, causing heavy rain there.

The evacuees in Fujian include those working in fish farms on the sea, fishermen and residents in low-lying areas, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

About 44,000 fishing boats were ordered to return to harbour by yesterday, while flights from Xiamen city were postponed or cancelled.

Local authorities were advised to monitor the safety of people living in makeshift shelters at coal mines and in mountainous areas and to boost patrols along reservoirs and dams in preparation for flooding.

Fujian is ready with 12,000 tents, 50,000 quilts, 80,000 items of clothing and a five-day supply of food for 300,000 people, Xinhua said.

Since April, localized rains and floods punctuated by a series of typhoons and storms have swept through China, displacing hundreds of thousands in eastern, southern, south-western and central China, says the Red Cross Society of China.

China is still counting the dead and clearing away debris in the aftermath of Typhoon Bilis, which swept through five provinces, including Fujian, less than two weeks ago.

Typhoon Bilis left 612 people dead with another 208 people missing, and led to the evacuation of nearly three million people, according to figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

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Two of the thousands of farmers who lost their homes and possessions to Typhoon Bilis. (Photo courtesy IFRC)
Bilis affected at least 29.6 million people in Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The Chinese government estimates the total losses at 26.6 billion yuan (US$3.3 billion).

The Asian Development Bank Monday announced a US$200 million loan to help reduce flood risks in Hunan Province. The loan covers about 40 percent of the project’s total estimated cost of US$497.4 million.

“Improved management and control of floods in Hunan is urgently needed to secure economic growth and development,” says Richard Bolt, an Asian Development Bank senior sector economist.

Over the past 20 years, Hunan province grown rapidly and is now home to more than 66 million people. Its cities are centers of government, finance, business, education, transportation, and manufacturing and provide markets for agriculture and the province’s rural people.

Floods in the Dongting Lake, in the north of the province, and from the province’s four mountain rivers are an annual natural hazard. Because of growth in cities along the mountain rivers and their proximity to riverbanks many people - especially the poor - are at risk from floods.

Despite major public investments in flood protection, damage from floods has increased. Since 2000, the Ministry of Water Resources has responded by changing its strategy from flood control to river basin-based integrated flood management.

The project will support this strategy and assist the Hunan provincial government to implement its plan to improve flood control, forecasting and management in the mountainous river basins – the Lishui, Xianjiang, Yuanjiang, and Zishui – home to about 56.4 million people or 84 percent of the provincial population.

Flood protection works will be conducted in 35 high priority areas out of 94 flood prone cities. Nonstructural measures are included to strengthen flood forecasting, enhance flood warning and emergency response systems.

A $500,000 technical assistance grant from the government of Spain accompanies the loan to help strengthen the provincial Water Resources Department in flood management including nonstructural aspects.