2010/07/22

Flood-hit China braces for typhoon Chanthu

CHONGQING, July 22, 2010 (AFP) - Southern China braced Thursday for the arrival of typhoon Chanthu, with flights cancelled and more "ferocious" rainfall forecast after the loss of more than 700 lives in floods this year.

Chanthu's expected mid-day landfall in Guangdong province comes as the nation grapples with its worst flooding in 10 years, which is expected to continue as the typhoon season gains pace.

Chanthu was expected to hit Guangdong, the island province of Hainan and the Guangxi region with maximum winds of up to 126 kilometres per hour (78 mph) and "ferocious precipitation", the China Meteorological Administration warned.

Those are among the areas already hit by torrential rains and subsequent flooding that has killed hundreds over the past several weeks and caused scores of rivers and lakes across the region to reach danger levels.

At least 701 people have died since the beginning of the year, while 347 people remain missing, vice minister of water resources Liu Ning told reporters Wednesday.

The Civil Affairs Ministry said three million people have been evacuated.

The flooding has intensified amid increasingly wet weather across several provinces since June. The ministry has said nearly 500 people have been killed or gone missing since July 1 alone.

Liu warned of more misery to come as the typhoon season gets into gear, saying six to eight major typhoons were expected in the coming months.

The weather administration warned people in Chanthu's westward-moving path to avoid unnecessary trips outdoors until the all-clear is given.

Twenty-six flights in and out of Hainan's Haikou city were cancelled Thursday, airport officials announced.

Elsewhere, the weather administration forecast light to moderate rain for the next three days across parts of China most affected by the recent flooding, including the provinces of Sichuan, Shaanxi, Hubei, Anhui, and Yunnan.

Liu said Wednesday that more than 230 rivers in the country had seen water levels rise beyond warning points, with two dozen exceeding historic highs.

Tens of thousands of homes and other structures have been destroyed in floods and landslides, and economic losses have hit at least 142 billion yuan (21 billion dollars), he said.

The deaths and damage figures are the worst in a decade, he said.