Typhoon Megi lashes Taiwan and heads to China

Three die in mudslides caused by record rains in Taiwan, as typhoon now heads to China.

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TAIPEI // Record rains from a powerful typhoon caused massive mud- and rockslides in Taiwan that buried a Buddhist temple and trapped vehicles on a highway, where one bus carrying 19 Chinese tourists was missing Friday.

The mudslide at the temple killed three people, and overall, 27 people were missing in Taiwan as Typhoon Megi swept toward southern China, where landfall is expected late Friday or Saturday. The storm earlier killed 26 people and damaged homes and crops in the Philippines.

Megi dumped a record 45 inches (114 centimetres) of rain in Taiwan's Ilan county over 48 hours. It had winds of 90 mph (145 kph) and was about 275 miles (440 kilometres) south-east of Hong Kong on Friday evening, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

Three people were killed at the White Cloud Temple in Suao city along the eastern coast when a mudslide buried the building, Taiwanese cable TV stations reported. Rescuers were using bulldozers to try to dig out six other people, Ilan county chief Lin Tsong-hsien said.

Two buses carrying Chinese tourists were on a six-mile (10-kilometre) stretch of a coastal highway in Ilan that was hit by at least seven rockslides Thursday night, Premier Wu Den-yih said. Nineteen people on one bus were rescued - five with light to moderate injuries - but the Taiwanese driver and the Chinese tour guide were still missing, Wu said.

There had been no contact with the 19 tourists aboard the other bus, he said.

TV news reported a 500-yard (500-meter) stretch of the highway had collapsed. The rockslides trapped about 30 vans, buses and cars, officials said.

Air force helicopters were searching for the missing bus and 340 other travelers cut off by the rockslides, Interior Minister Chiang Yi-hua said. Those 340 travelers were not in any immediate danger, officials said.

The storm dumped heavy rains throughout Taiwan, but Ilan, about 90 miles (150 kilometres) southeast of Taipei, was the hardest hit. Authorities said more than 2,500 residents had been evacuated. Broad swaths of farmland in the county were under many feet (several meters) of water.

Earlier this week, Megi killed more than two dozen people and damaged thousands of homes in the northern Philippines. The storm also forced 55,000 Filipinos from their homes and caused about $175 million in damage to infrastructure and crops, disaster officials said.

Megi was expected to hit China's southern Guangdong and Fujian provinces between Friday night and Saturday, meteorologists said.

In Fujian, authorities said 161,800 people were evacuated to safer places.

An official in Guangdong's Shantou city said fishermen were told to return to ports and authorities designated some 200 buildings in the city as emergency shelters.

"This kind of strong typhoon is very rare for this season in Shantou. We are treating it as a 'super strong typhoon' and making our preparations accordingly," said a relief official who only gave his surname, Chen.

Hong Kong's main port remained partially shut, with leading port operator Hongkong International Terminals halting the processing of containers, the company said.

In Vietnam, the death toll from severe flooding in four central provinces climbed to 75, including 14 victims from a bus swept off a road by strong currents, with six passengers still missing, disaster officials said Friday.

While Megi bypassed Vietnam, the country's central region was pummeled by 4.6 feet (140 centimeters) of rain over the past week, inundating large swaths of land, submerging nearly 280,000 houses and forcing more than 170,000 villagers from their homes.

Meanwhile, another storm, Cyclone Giri, was spinning in the Bay of Bengal and likely to make landfall Saturday in western Myanmar. The storm was expected to hit with winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and a tidal surge as high as 12 feet (370 centimetres).

Cyclone Nargis in 2008 killed 130,000 people in Myanmar.