Typhoon weakens ahead of landfall in south China

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2010 8:22 AM
Typhoon weakens ahead of landfall in south China

Typhoon Megi's threat appeared to ease Thursday as it approached southern China, but wary residents continued their preparations for a storm that killed 20 people and damaged thousands of homes when it slammed into the northern Philippines.

Megi, which was 260 miles (420 kilometers) southeast of Hong Kong on Thursday evening, was generating winds of 110 mph (175 kph) _ much weaker than the winds it inflicted on the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

After making landfall in China's Guangdong province Saturday, it is expected to pare back to winds of 90 mph (145 kph) and then further weaken into a tropical storm as it moves inland, according to the observatory.

Still, officials and residents in the region were wary given the destruction Megi wreaked earlier in the week. In the Philippines, the storm forced 11,000 people from their homes and caused about $110 million worth of damage to infrastructure and crops, according to disaster officials. On Thursday, U.S. Marine transport helicopters brought food and tents to coastal towns still cut off by the floods, and American troops in the area for annual exercises helped deliver emergency supplies.

A Hong Kong Observatory official warned that despite losing steam, Megi was still the strongest typhoon to hit the South China Sea this year and reported sightings from ships that it was generating waves as high as 23 feet (seven meters) along its path. Senior scientific officer Chan Chik-cheung added that monsoon winds could still change Megi's course.

In Guangdong, tens of thousands of fishing boats have returned to harbor, officials said. Officials are moving residents to high ground and shelters in anticipation of landslides, according to Wu Xiaoyi, the Red Cross head of disaster relief in Guangdong.

Farther east in Fujian province, more than 150,000 people have been evacuated, the local government said.

While the weather in Hong Kong was dry Thursday, residents hunkered down in Tai O, a suburban village known for its coastal homes on stilts. Villagers installed metal barricades and moved refrigerators and washing machines to higher ground, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported. In urban areas, residents taped their windows.

One of the world's busiest ports also prepared to suspend operations. Hong Kong port operator Modern Terminals said it would stop processing heavy freight at midnight. Just north of Hong Kong, Shenzhen's Shekou port was also partially closed, a woman surnamed Lin said in a phone interview.

Megi has already brought floods and landslides to Taiwan and Japan. Rescue officials rushed Thursday to free stranded motorists in northeastern Taiwan, which has already seen about 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain and is expecting more.

In southern Japan, two elderly women were killed when their nursing home was swept away, police officials said. Another woman was missing.

In Thailand's capital, officials were on guard for flooding as raging waters from annual monsoon rains were due to sweep down the Chao Phraya river into Bangkok.

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Associated Press writers Cara Anna in Beijing, Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila, Grant Peck in Bangkok, Debby Wu in Taipei, Shino Yuasa in Tokyo, and AP researcher Zhao Liang in Beijing contributed to this report.