The Heat Is Online

Typhoon Drives Tens of Thousands of Evacuations in East Asia

Thousands evacuated as typhoon hits southern China

The Associated Press, July 16, 2010

BEIJING — A typhoon that left a trail of destruction and deaths in the Philippines hit southern China late Friday as emergency workers prepared for torrential rains and lashing winds, flights and ferries were canceled and tens of thousands of residents were evacuated.
Typhoon Conson had weakened to a tropical storm after blowing out of the Philippines, where 39 people were dead and the number of missing climbed to 84. But it restrengthened to a typhoon with winds of up to 78 miles per hour (126 kilometers per hour) and hit the city of Sanya on Hainan island at 7:50 p.m. local time Friday, China's National Meteorological Center said.
The center's website provided no other details. Xinhua News Agency reported one death from the storm later Friday: a motorcyclist who was struck by a falling billboard.
Heavy rain fell on Hainan as the typhoon approached and conditions were dark and windy, said a receptionist who answered the phone at the Mandarin Oriental in the city of Sanya.
"If the wind starts to pick up, it may uproot some of the smaller trees. We are recommending to guests that they stay indoors," said the woman, who would not give her name.
Authorities dispatched relief workers in preparation for the storm and ordered thousands of boats to dock. More than 150 passengers were stranded at a port after ferry services were suspended, Xinhua said. Twenty-eight flights were also canceled.
"Even though typhoons are common in our region, we are still taking precautionary safety measures," said an official at the provincial meteorological bureau who refused to give her name as is common among Chinese bureaucrats.
In addition to Hainan, parts of Guangdong province and neighboring Guangxi region will see torrential rains over the next 24 hours as Conson moves toward the northwest at 9 to 13 mph (15 to 20 kph).
Nearly 40,000 people in Hainan and more than 20,000 people in Guangdong were evacuated from areas in the projected path of the typhoon, Xinhua said.
The storm should continue its northwest path inland over the weekend, heading toward southwest China and northern Vietnam.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged authorities in 23 northern and central provinces on Friday to ban ships and fishing trawlers from sailing. He also ordered local governments to evacuate people from high-risk areas and to advise others to stockpile food and medicine.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in a nationally televised emergency meeting, scolded the weather bureau for failing to predict that Conson would hit Manila, which left government agencies unprepared for the onslaught.
At least 39 people died in the Philippines, including 14 fishermen whose bodies were recovered by the navy, coast guard and policemen in Bataan province, west of Manila, on Thursday. Nine died when a wayward oil barge slammed into their boats, which were moored near Mariveles town, the coast guard said.
Five others were found at sea off Bataan, where their boats sank.
The number of missing soared as emergency crews restored electricity and fixed communication problems between Manila and nearby provinces on Luzon island, the national disaster agency said.
Many parts of China have been pounded by storms this summer, though areas expected to be hit by Conson had not been seriously affected so far. Flooding and subsequent landslides in communities along the Yangtze River and other scattered parts of China have killed 135 people so far this month, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said. Direct economic losses in July reached 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion).
Conson was not expected to hit the areas in China already battered by weeks of flooding.
In Japan, police said landslides caused by heavy rains killed two people in Hiroshima while another was swept away in a swollen river.
Eight people were missing across western and central Japan.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

300,000 urged to flee Japan rains, China next

Typhoon Conson earlier killed at least 37 in Philippines

Reuters, July 15, 2010

BEIJING/MANILA — Heavy rains and powerful winds battered East Asia on Thursday, pressing authorities to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in Japan and putting China on alert for its worst floods in years.

In the Philippines, power was gradually restored to millions of homes in and around Manila after Typhoon Conson hit the capital harder than expected on Tuesday night. Officials raised the death toll in the Philippines to 37, with 42 missing.

The typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday, but the Philippines' weather bureau said it was expected to regain strength as it moved over the South China Sea and headed towards southern China and northern Vietnam.

Conson was due to hit land late on Friday, the Tropical Storm Risk website said.

China's Xinhua news agency said the storm would make landfall in Hainan island's southern resort city of Sanya before moving into Guangdong and Guangxi, bringing heavy rain.

"Winds will gradually strengthen and it may increase in intensity to a typhoon," the China Meteorological Administration said.

More than 24,000 fishing boats have taken shelter in harbors around Hainan and ferry services between the island the mainland will be stopped in the early evening, Xinhua said.

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.

Mudslides in Japan
Japan's Kyodo news agency said local governments recommended that some 300,000 people be evacuated from their homes, as the Meteorological Agency forecast heavy rain from a separate weather system for the west and east of the country later on Thursday.

TV images showed some houses tilted after being hit by mudslides, swollen rivers and abandoned cars almost submerged in flooded streets. Footage also showed a rescue crew saving a man caught in a fallen tree on a fast-running river.

Authorities say at least two people have been killed.

Rain across a large swathe of southern China has already killed almost 600 people this year, with more than 200 missing, causing damage worth 120.2 billion yuan ($17.75 billion), according to the latest government figures.

Xinhua news agency said that the most recent bout of flooding, in 10 southern provinces since July 1, at least 135 people had been killed, 41 were missing, more than 1.2 million people had to be relocated, and direct economic losses were estimated at 26 billion yuan.

Parts of China now faces their worst flooding since 1998, when thousands died, as rain continues to batter the upper and middle reaches of the Yangtze River.

"Although the current situation along the Yangtze River has yet to reach the danger level, it is definitely at a crucial point," the China Daily quoted senior official Wang Jingquan as saying. "If heavy rain hits the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, coupled with the continuous rainfall in the middle and lower reaches, severe floods similar to that in 1998 will occur.

"There will be no room for optimism as the incoming Typhoon Conson will add to the grave situation in flood control."

Yangtze floods 12 years ago killed more than 4,000 people and forced the evacuation of more than 18 million.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local governments to step up flood relief efforts and "stressed that people residing in areas under the threat of floods and typhoons must be relocated to safety in a timely manner", the report said.

8,000 still in Luzon shelters
Trains, planes and ferries returned to normal operations in the Philippines as Typhoon Conson tracked toward Hainan.

More than 8,000 people remained in temporary shelters in five cities and 47 towns on Luzon, the Philippines' main island.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines said about 84 percent of the projected 6,767 megawatts load for the entire Luzon grid had been restored, but ruled out any power shortage because the actual demand was only 6,029 megawatts.

Power distributor Manila Electric Company restored electricity in its service areas, including the capital region of 12 million, after repairs on snapped transmission lines and damaged power facilities were completed on Thursday.

"We're 100 percent re-energized," Jose Zaldarriaga, spokesman for the power company, told reporters.

Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said the typhoon had not caused a great deal of damage to rice- and coconut-growing areas near the capital.

Copyright 2010 Reuters

Trees crush kids, fishermen missing as typhoon lashes Philippines

At least 26 die; more than half of Luzon area loses power

The Associated Press, July 14, 2010

MANILA, Philippines — The first typhoon to lash the Philippines this year flooded parts of the capital, toppled power lines and killed at least 26 people Wednesday, many of them trying to scramble to safety as the storm changed course.

Thirty-eight people were missing, mostly fishermen who were caught by the storm's fury at sea.

More than half of the main northern island of Luzon, which includes Manila, was without electricity, and authorities said it would take two to three days to restore power. Several dozen flights were canceled, and schools and many government offices closed. High winds felled trees and floods were knee-deep floods in some communities in the capital.

Many died while fleeing the typhoon's fury, regional disaster operations officer Fred Bragas said. The 26 deaths were spread over six provinces and a city, mostly near Manila.

In Batangas province, a 47-year-old woman was electrocuted by a power line that snapped, and a 12-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother died after a large mango tree crashed into their home as they slept, said regional disaster operations officer Fred Bragas.

In nearby Cavite province, a woman and her daughter were killed by a falling tree, Bragas said. Another child drowned after falling into a raging river, provincial spokesman Filomeno Maligaya told DZBB radio.

Newly elected President Benigno Aquino III scolded the weather bureau for failing to predict that the storm would hit Manila.

"This is unacceptable," Aquino told officials during a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, noting that government agencies were relying on the weather bureau for their preparations. "I hope this is the last time we are all brought to areas different from where we should be."

Weather bureau chief Prisco Nilo explained that it takes forecasters six hours to update weather bulletins. The weather bureau has complained of lack of funding and equipment.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons and storms a year, gaining a reputation as the welcome mat for the most destructive cyclones from the Pacific. Last year, back-to-back typhoons inundated Manila and outlying provinces, killing nearly 1,000 people.

Typhoon Conson came ashore on the east coast of Luzon on Tuesday night with winds of 75 miles per hour, said government weather forecaster Bernie de Leon. It weakened to a tropical storm as it crossed the rice-growing island and buffeted Manila on Luzon's west coast for two hours.

The storm then headed out to the South China Sea before dawn and is expected to make landfall again later this week in China, west of Macau.

One man drowned trying to save a dozen pigs in a swollen lake south of Manila, while his companion was swept away and is missing, Bragas said.

A concrete wall of a cement warehouse collapsed and pinned four carpenters to death in southern Laguna province while a landslide killed a man in his house in nearby Tagaytay City. The man's son remains missing in the landslide, Bragas said.

In Quezon province, four fishermen drowned and 18 others were rescued after huge waves and strong winds battered their motor boats as they raced toward an island to seek shelter late Tuesday, provincial governor David Suarez told The Associated Press.

Villagers and the coast guard have launched a search for the 27 missing fishermen, he said.
Another nine fishermen were rescued after big waves overturned their boats off the island province of Catanduanes, regional military spokesman Maj. Harold Cabunoc said. The other 10 remained missing.
The Manila International Airport Authority said 63 flights, including four international ones, had been canceled and nine had been diverted since late Tuesday.
Classes were suspended in schools and most universities in Manila. Several government offices, including the Senate, closed because of the power outage. Thousands of commuters were stranded when the blackouts disrupted train services. Many hotels and shopping malls were relying on their own generators.
Heavy rains, unrelated to the typhoon, have also wreaked havoc in China and Japan. The death toll from rain-triggered landslides rose to 41 in western China, and workers raced to drain overflowing reservoirs in the southeast. Flooding has killed more than 100 people in China so far this month, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Storms in southern and western Japan left one dead and three missing. A woman drowned in a swollen river, and two women in their 70s were among the missing, according to police. Nearly 10,000 homes were evacuated.
More rain was predicted into Thursday in both Japan and China.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.