China forecasts heavy rain from typhoon Soulik

BEIJING - Typhoon Soulik was set to dump up to 18 centimetres (seven inches) of rain on eastern parts of China in just 24 hours, forecasters said Sunday, a day after the storm killed two when it battered Taiwan.

The typhoon was downgraded to a tropical depression at 5:00 am as it swept inland, and "its strength will continue to weaken", the China Meteorological Administration said on its website.

The storm lashed coastal Fujian province with winds of 118 kilometres per hour (73 mph) when it made landfall but had weakened to 58 kph as passed inland over Jiangxi province.

More than half a million people had been evacuated from Fujian and neighbouring Zhejiang as the typhoon approached, with 5,500 soldiers deployed to carry out relief work if needed.

While Soulik wrought havoc in Taiwan, tearing roofs from homes, causing landslides that blocked roads and leading to the cancellation of 350 flights, its impact on eastern China was less severe.

No deaths or injuries were reported, the official Xinhua news agency said. Xiamen suffered the heaviest downpours, with 24 centimetres of rain falling on the port city from Saturday to Sunday.

Rivers swelled beyond warning levels in some areas, and waves up to 10 metres (33 feet) high pounded sea defences in Ningde city.

"Billboards have been shattered and trees have been uprooted", Xinhua said, adding that almost 31,000 ships were called back to port and 20 flights cancelled.

Officials were calculating the cost of the storm, with the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou facing a direct economic loss of 210 million yuan (S$43 million), the agency said.

In Taiwan, two people were killed, one missing and 104 injured by the storm. One town in central Taiwan reported "widespread" landslides and floodwater levels a storey high.

The northern village of Bailan saw the heaviest rain, with 90 centimetres (35 inches) falling in 48 hours, with winds gusting up to 220 kilometres per hour.

Downpours have already hit wide swathes of China over the past week. The death toll from a rain-triggered landslide in southwest Sichuan province rose to 43 late Saturday after more bodies were retrieved, Xinhua reported.