China issues highest alert for Typhoon Fitow

China issues highest alert for Typhoon Fitow

BEIJING - China was on its highest alert for Typhoon Fitow Sunday, with tens of thousands evacuated as the storm was set to slam into the east coast as early as Sunday night.

The National Meteorological Centre issued a red alert for the storm, saying it was expected to make landfall in China late Sunday or early Monday somewhere between the south of Zhejiang province and the north of Fujian province.

The storm, which the centre classified as "strong" with winds up to 151 kilometres (94 miles) an hour, was located Sunday afternoon about 280 kilometres southeast of the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang and moving at a speed of 18 kilometres an hour.

Zhejiang has so far evacuated more than 130,000 people ahead of the expected landfall, state news agency Xinhua said.

"We must not leave anybody in danger," said Li Qiang, the provincial governor.

He urged local authorities to increase inspections of dams and reservoirs as well as safety checks of chemical plants and other important facilities, Xinhua reported.

Fitow was expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds, Xinhua added, quoting the weather centre as saying it was unusual for a typhoon to come ashore in China's southeast during October. It urged authorities and residents to be especially alert.

Chinese maritime authorities also issued red alerts, warning of storm tides and waves kicked up by Fitow.

Fishermen were urged to return to port and local authorities were told to prepare harbour facilities and sea walls for high tides.

Fitow, named after a flower from Micronesia, comes just two weeks after Typhoon Usagi wreaked havoc in the region.

The storm, which Xinhua described as the 23rd to hit China this year, passed through Japan's southern Okinawan island chain, forcing flight cancellations and causing power outages.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau issued a warning over the storm Sunday morning as it was barrelling past the north of the island.

A total of 103 international flights were cancelled in Taiwan while 14 flights were delayed. Seventeen ferry services between Taiwan and offshore islands were also terminated.

Some 670 mountain climbers were advised to scrap their plans as the bureau forecast torrential rain in mountainous areas in the north and northeast.

The Taiwan weather bureau said the typhoon had brought up to 400 mm (16 inches) of rainfall although it was not likely to make landfall on the island.

Taiwan's military has ordered more than 20,000 troops on standby.

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