Typhoon weakens on path to China, kills 3 in Taiwan

TAIPEI/HONG KONG Fri Oct 22, 2010 2:12pm EDT

1 of 6. Rescue team members carry a body after landslides caused by Typhoon Megi in Suao, Ilan County in northern Taiwan October 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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TAIPEI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - A typhoon initially feared to be among the worst in 50 years weakened on a course to southern China after killing at least three people in Taiwan and stranding hundreds more.

Typhoon Megi was set to hit China's Fujian province as a category 1 typhoon, down from a 3 on a 1-5 severity scale, by Saturday and then fade to a tropical storm, Forecasting service Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com) said.

It would miss world financial center Hong Kong and the industry-rich Pearl River Delta.

"It's showing signs of weakening," said Lee Tsz-cheung, a senior scientific officer with the Hong Kong Observatory. "We expect the intensity will gradually decrease until it makes landfall and decreases further."

A mudslide in eastern Taiwan killed at least three people, island disaster officials said. The semi-official Central News Agency put the mudslide toll at five people.

Rainfall approaching 1,100 mm in some parts of Taiwan as Megi mixed with a separate storm also severed a highway and stranded more than 400 travelers, disaster authorities said.

The same typhoon had killed 26 people in the Philippines and caused 314,577 metric tonnes in losses to the rice crop.

Typhoon-whipped high waves shut Taiwan's biggest seaport, in Kaohsiung, for the day after a string of ports and oil terminals in southern China had closed operations.

Marine authorities in China said the typhoon could generate a huge and destructive "50-year storm surge" along the China coastline.

Hong Kong's international terminal closed its container terminal gates to trucks transporting goods from the port overnight, but activity at China's port in Maoming, where Sinopec runs a 270,000-bpd refinery, was resuming on Friday.

Typhoons regularly hit China. Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea before weakening over land.

(Reporting by Ralph Jennings in Taipei, James Pomfret in Hong Kong, Jim Bai in Beijing and Randy Fabi in Singapore)

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