Super typhoon Rammasun hits southern China

Strongest storm to make landfall in China in 40 years brings torrential rain and fierce winds that leave one man dead and thousands of travellers stranded.

A man walks past fallen trees on a street in Wenchang in Hainan province after super typhoon Rammasun hit the area on July 18, 2014. AFP
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BEIJING // The strongest typhoon to hit southern China in more than 40 years made its second landfall on Friday, after leaving a trail of destruction and at least 64 dead in the neighbouring Philippines.

Super Typhoon Rammasun hit the city of Zhanjiang in south China’s Guangdong province on Friday night, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local meteorological authorities.

It first made landfall Friday afternoon on Hainan island, packing winds of up to 216 kilometres an hour, China’s National Meteorological Centre (NMC) said.

The NMC said the typhoon was expected to bring torrential rains and was the strongest storm to strike the country’s southern regions since 1973.

It claimed its first victim in China soon after coming ashore in Wenchang, Xinhua reported, when a man was killed by debris as his house collapsed.

The state-run China Central Television showed images of wind-whipped trees in Hainan and high waves churned up by the typhoon.

“Strong Typhoon Rammasun is too frightening,” wrote one poster on Chinese social media, adding it “came ashore with fierce winds”.

“It’s raining so hard, the wipers won’t help and it’s hard to see the road ahead,” wrote another user riding in a taxi. “The road is full of water and tree branches, and the heavy wind has blown some branches onto the power cables.”

A public security official in Wengtian, the city on Hainan where the storm first made landfall, told Xinhua that authorities anticipated a rise in fatalities as dozens of residents had already reported injuries before the power was cut off.

“Some rescuers are on their way to places in need of help, but I have lost contact with them too,” said the official, Xu Quanzhun.

The outer bands of the storm lashed Hong Kong overnight on Thursday with heavy rain and strong winds, but the city was spared a direct hit as the typhoon tracked west towards Hainan.

Late on Thursday, the NMC had issued its highest “red alert” for the storm, the first such declaration this year, according to Xinhua.

More than 210,000 residents in Hainan had been evacuated by Friday afternoon, Xinhua said, citing provincial disaster authorities.

Nearly 7,000 passengers were stranded after 184 flights were cancelled, and tourism authorities on the island ordered all resorts to shut down and tour bus operators to cease operations from Friday afternoon.

“Guangdong provincial authorities have launched the highest level of emergency response,” Xinhua added.

Earlier, Rammasun – a Thai word for “Thunder God” – hit the Philippines, slamming the capital Manila and killing at least 64 people, with 103 others injured and five still missing, according to the country’s national disaster risk reduction and management council.

The typhoon made landfall on the main island of Luzon on Tuesday, where it destroyed or damaged more than 26,000 homes while cutting electricity supplies to nearly all of Manila and surrounding urban areas.

The regional utility, Manila Electric, said about 11.5 per cent of the capital, a megacity of more than 12 million people, remained without power on Friday but promised to restore supplies to the entire city later in the day.

The Philippines is often the first major landmass to be struck after storms build above the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Rammasun was the first typhoon to make landfall since this year’s rainy season began in June, and the first major storm since Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the eastern islands of Samar and Leyte last November.

Haiyan killed up to 7,300 people in one of the Philippines’ worst natural disasters.

In China, the typhoon comes after dozens of people died in the past week when heavy rain battered swathes of the country, with at least six killed by lightning, thousands of homes destroyed and more than 300,000 evacuated, state media have reported.

The rains have killed 10 people and left another 10 missing in the south-western province of Guizhou, where 122,400 people were evacuated, Xinhua said, citing local authorities.

* Agence France-Presse