Weakened typhoon Wipha drenches eastern China

SHANGHAI Wed Sep 19, 2007 11:38am EDT

1 of 6. People make their way along a flooded street after Typhoon Wipha hit Rui'an, east China's Zhejiang province, September 19, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/China Daily

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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Typhoon Wipha lost strength after crossing the eastern coast of China on Wednesday but downpours have still taken a heavy toll in two provinces.

The storm toppled thousands of homes and knocked out power and water supplies as it swept ashore, state media said.

Five people were killed, mostly by landslides, and three more were missing, Xinhau news agency said.

About 2.7 million people were evacuated in eastern China, including the financial hub Shanghai ahead of its landfall early Wednesday morning.

Torrential rains drenched Zhejiang and parts of the neighboring provinces of Fujian, Anhui and Jiangsu, submerging crops, houses and streets.

Wipha grazed northern Taiwan and triggered floodwaters in Japan's southern islands, sweeping away at least two people and forcing thousands to flee.

In Zhejiang, Wipha cut off power in nearly 1,900 villages, destroyed almost 2,500 houses, flooded 160,000 hectares of farmland and severed 239 roads, affecting 6 million people, Xinhua said.

The storm caused estimated economic losses of 6.6 billion yuan ($878.2 million) in Zhejiang and Fujian, as rivers and reservoirs overflowed. Thousands of dyke breaches were reported, Xinhua said.

Dozens of flights to and from the Wenzhou airport were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But Wipha, a female name in Thai, weakened into a tropical storm after hitting land. It mostly missed Shanghai as it headed north toward Jiangsu province.

One man was electrocuted in Shanghai ahead of the storm on Tuesday, local media said. Schools were closed on Wednesday in Shanghai and most of Zhejiang.

Wipha landed just where Super Typhoon Saomai, the strongest China had seen in 50 years, hit last year, killing hundreds in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.

The densely populated area is home to many small businesses and factories, with a mixture of modern buildings and older brick homes. Some 50,000 Zhejiang factories on the path of Wipha were forced to halt production, Xinhua said.

"The wind was not as strong as Saomai, but it lasted longer," an official from Xiaguan township, where Wipha made landfall, told Reuters by telephone.

Typhoons regularly hit China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan in the summer months, gathering strength from warm sea waters before weakening over land.

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