BEIJING – A powerful typhoon toppled houses, flooded villages and forced nearly 1 million people to flee to safety on China’s eastern coast before weakening into a tropical storm today.
Named Morakot, the storm struck after triggering the worst flooding in Taiwan in 50 years, leaving dozens missing and bringing down a six-story hotel. It earlier lashed the Philippines, killing at least 22 people.
Morakot, or emerald in Thai, slammed into China’s Fujian province Sunday afternoon as a typhoon carrying heavy rain and winds of 74 mph, according the China Meteorological Administration. At least one child died after a house collapsed in Zhejiang province.
By early today, the storm packed winds of 52 miles per hour and churned at about 6 mph, the administration said.
Hundreds of villages and towns were flooded and more than 2,000 houses collapsed, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
People stumbled with flashlights as the storm enveloped the town of Beibi in Fujian in darkness, Xinhua said. Strong winds uprooted trees or snapped them apart, while farmers used buckets to catch fish swept out of fish farms by high waves.
Village officials in Zhejiang rode bicycles to hand out drinking water and instant noodles to residents stranded by deep floods, while rescuers tried to reach eight sailors on a cargo ship blown onto a reef off Fujian, Xinhua reported.
About 1 million people were evacuated from China’s eastern coastal provinces.
Authorities used helicopters to drop food today at a mountainous village in southern Kaohsiung county, which was hit by a massive landslide. Official Yang Chiu-hsing said rescuers failed to reach the 1,300 villagers because bridges and roads were damaged by floods.
Taiwan’s Disaster Relief Center said Morakot killed 12 people and another 52 were missing, including 14 whose home was swept away. Two policemen were washed away while helping to evacuate villagers.
The government set up a task force to coordinate relief work in the worst-hit counties in the south, where many towns and villages remained inundated by floodwaters, officials said.
In the northern Philippines, the death toll from Morakot rose to 22 today with 18 injured and four missing.