updated 7/26/2006 10:42:53 AM ET 2006-07-26T14:42:53

Heavy rain from Tropical Storm Kaemi caused a levee in southern China to collapse, threatening to inundate an area that’s home to 20,000 villagers, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday.

The storm, which weakened to a depression, killed at least eight people and left 18 others missing as it battered China’s southeast and forced the evacuation of more than 640,000 residents. Heavy rain was forecast through Thursday.

In advance of the storm, authorities sent more than 3 million mobile phone warnings to people living in the region, the government’s chief rescue agency said on its Web site.

Xinhua said the storm caused a 650-foot-long levee in Zhao’an, a county in Fujian, to collapse, threatening 20,000 residents in six villages.

More than 200 soldiers have been working on emergency repairs, it said. By Wednesday evening, workers had filled the breach with more than 5,000 sandbags and piled on 60 tree stumps, Xinhua said. It did not other details.

China Central Television said five of the deaths and all of those missing were in Jiangxi province, just inland from Fujian province, where Kaemi made landfall as a typhoon on Tuesday. Three other deaths were in neighboring Guangdong province, it said.

CCTV did not say when or how the people died, although the toll appeared to include two people killed by a landslide in Guangdong’s Wuhua County, the first deaths reported from the storm.

The deadly ‘ant’
When Kaemi roared ashore on Tuesday, Fujian was drenched with up to 10 inches of rain and battered by gusts up to 67 mph, Xinhua said.

More than 640,000 people were evacuated in Fujian ahead of Kaemi’s arrival and 44,000 fishing boats returned to port.

There were no reports of deaths or serious damage in the province itself although more than two dozen flights out of the provincial capital, Fuzhou, were canceled Tuesday and state television showed rivers rising and heavy surf along the coastline earlier in the day.

Image: Crashed car
Str  /  AFP - Getty Images
A car over turned on a slippery road in Xiamen, in southeast China's Fujian province on Tuesday, as torrential rains from Typhoon Kaemi caused widespread flooding.
Kaemi also brought strong wind and rain to the northern Philippines and Taiwan. In the Philippines, two people were reported missing and more than 27,000 were evacuated due to floods near Manila, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said.

Kaemi, the Korean word for ant, is the season’s seventh typhoon.

It comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Bilis, which pounded southern China more than a week ago, triggering flooding and mudslides and killing more than 600 people.

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