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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 August 2006, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
China typhoon sparks mass exodus
Police help evacuate an elderly man in Zhejiang province on 10 August 2006
Authorities hurried to evacuate vulnerable areas
More than 1.5 million people have been evacuated from their homes in south-east China as the strongest typhoon in decades swept ashore.

At least two people died and 80 others were injured when Typhoon Saomai struck with winds of more than 200km/h (124 mph), state news agency Xinhua said.

The Chinese authorities have deployed 20,000 soldiers for rescue operations in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.

The provinces had already been damaged by another typhoon last month.

Saomai is the eighth powerful storm to hit China this year.

Typhoons and tropical storms are common in the region between July and October, but this year they have been unusually frequent.

China's state media said Saomai was the strongest typhoon in 50 years, and stronger than the deadly typhoon Rananim which hit in 2004.

"Saomai... has outpaced forecasts and outrun the powerful Typhoon Rananim that claimed 164 lives in Zhejiang in August 2004," said Li Yuzhu, head of the Zhejiang provincial observatory.

Airports closed


Saomai, which is the Vietnamese name for the planet Venus, has already brought heavy rain to Taiwan.

It made landfall at 1725 (0925) in Cangnan county on the mainland just south of the city of Wenzhou, bringing torrential rain. Officials in the county declared a state of emergency.

In one town, streets were under water, and trees, walls and advertising boards had been blown down by the wind, Xinhua reported.

The agency added that 1,000 homes had been destroyed, and electricity and communication networks disrupted in Zhejiang province.

The two people killed were in Fuding in the neighbouring Fujian province, Xinhua reported.

Officials had ordered the evacuation of 990,000 people from their homes in Zhejiang and about 569,000 people in Fujian, the agency said.

Cloud around building in Taiwan - 10/8/06
Saomai has already brought heavy rain to Taiwan

Schools, sports stadiums and theatres had been turned into temporary shelters, a local official said.

Wenzhou airport was closed, about 36,000 vessels returned to harbour in Fujian, and schools cancelled outside activities, Xinhua said.

Airlines in Taiwan cancelled some flights, even though the island escaped the worst of the storm.

Hundreds of Chinese people have been killed by rainstorms, mudslides and floods this year.

Just last week, Typhoon Prapiroon killed about 80 people. Tropical Storm Bilis killed more than 600 in July.

People being evacuated from their homes

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