NINGDE, China — A “super typhoon”, the strongest to hit China in half a century, slammed into the coast on Thursday killing at least two people, injuring more than 80 and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.
Typhoon Saomai, one of three storms to hit East Asia in the past few days, made landfall in the southeastern province of Zhejiang, hitting Cangnan county just after a state of emergency was declared, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
It destroyed more than 1,000 houses, plunged almost all the county into darkness and knocked out nearly half of local communication links.
At least 30 farmers were trapped in collapsed houses in the Cangnan town of Jinxiang. A press car carrying four was also trapped, it said.
“So far, about 20,000 soldiers and militiamen have been deployed on the eastern border to boost rescue and disaster relief efforts,” Xinhua said.
The storm, the eighth to hit China this year, injured more than 80 people, the report said, quoting local sources.
“The worst of it now seems to have passed, but we are without t mains power and have to rely on our generator,” hotel worker Jiao Qing told Reuters in the city of Ningde, not far from Cangnan.
“It was quite scary, with all the wind and rain, but we're used to it.”
Police closed off the main coastal highway forcing traffic onto narrow mountain roads, where drivers weaved around landslides and dodged fallen branches as rain lashed down and lightning lit up a leaden sky.
Neighboring Fujian province reported two deaths in the city of Fuding and 12 people missing, Xinhua said.
Some 20,000 hectares (77 sq miles) of rice fields had been inundated after 30 mm (12 inches) of rain fell in the space of just one hour, Xinhua said.
Storm tracker Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com) initially graded Saomai a category 5 “super” typhoon — its highest category — but reduced that to category 4 after it came ashore.
It saw Saomai weakening quickly to a tropical storm.
The typhoon landed with a wind velocity of 216 km (135 mph) per hour, and was more powerful than a typhoon that hit Zhejiang in August 1956 and triggered a tsunami that killed more than 3,000, Xinhua said.
The greater Wenzhou area, which includes Cangnan and is home to 7.4 million people, has declared a state of emergency and authorities have blocked highways into the worst-affected areas.
Factories, shops and offices had been ordered to stop all activities “unrelated to battling the typhoon”, state media said.
Residents reinforced windows and doors against the storm and stockpiled drinking water and food, while those with flimsier homes headed to schools, theatres and stadiums to take shelter.
Wenzhou airport was closed and hundreds of passengers were stranded, an airport manager said.