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Storm hits China after Taiwan, Philippines

China said it had ordered ships to take shelter, canceled flights and evacuated 326,000 people as tropical storm Bilis pummeled its southern coast Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

China ordered ships to take shelter, canceled flights and evacuated 326,000 people as tropical storm Bilis pummeled its southern coast Friday, the government said.

Bilis weakened from a typhoon into a tropical storm early Friday after lashing Taiwan and hit the coast of Fujian province in the early afternoon, said an official at the provincial Civil Affairs Bureau. Like many other media-shy Chinese officials, he gave only his surname, Chen.

The storm was forecast to gradually loose strength as it heads inland.

Authorities evacuated about 256,000 fishermen and others working in exposed areas by Thursday evening as a precaution, Chen said.

Another 70,000 people were moved out of low-lying or vulnerable areas in neighboring Zhejiang province, southwest of Shanghai, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said parts of Zhejiang were hit by torrential rains beginning Thursday, with the city of Wenzhou recording 7 inches.

Fujian's observatory forecast moderate to torrential rains in coastal and inland areas of the province over the weekend, warning of possible flash floods, landslides and flooding, Xinhua said.

The death toll from Bilis rose to 14 with seven missing in the northern Philippines, authorities there reported Friday. It hit the country on Wednesday, causing a series of landslides and flash floods.

One man was electrocuted in Taipei on Thursday and two mainland Chinese fishermen disappeared after a fishing boat ran aground off Taiwan's Matsu Island, officials said.

Bilis caused a series of landslides that disrupted traffic in central and eastern Taiwan but did not inflict major injuries, they said.

"Bilis' wide outer bands will continue to affect Taiwan and residents have to prepare for torrential rains in the next two days," forecaster Wu Teh-rong said.

Bilis maintained a speed of 11 mph as it packed winds of 54 miles per hour, forecasters said.

In mainland China there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the storm.

More than a dozen flights were canceled beginning Thursday evening at the Changle International Airport in Fuzhou, the provincial capital, Xinhua said.

China is hit by at least several typhoons and suffers hundreds of rain deaths every summer. The country expects to suffer from more storms than usual this year due to an unusually warm current off its Pacific coast and high temperatures over the Tibetan plateau.

At least 349 people died in China in June due to flooding, landslides and other weather-related disasters, with another 99 people reported missing, according to government officials. Damage was estimated at $2.5 billion.