China orders mass evacuations ahead of typhoon

China evacuated hundreds of thousands of people and issued its highest alert as Typhoon Fitow barrelled towards the east coast, weather authorities said.

The National Meteorological Centre issued a red alert for the storm, saying it was expected to make landfall in the early hours of Monday between southern Zhejiang province and northern Fujian province.

The storm was packing winds of up to 151 kilometres an hour late Sunday night as it moved slowly towards the coast.

Zhejiang has so far evacuated more than 574,000 people, while in Fujian 177,000 have been displaced, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Cyclone Fitow. Photo / AFP via NASA
Cyclone Fitow. Photo / AFP via NASA

Two port workers in Zhejiang's city of Wenzhou went missing and may have fallen into the sea, the agency said.

"We must not leave anybody in danger," said Li Qiang, Zhejiang's 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.

The storm also forced the suspension of bullet train services in several cities in Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, Xinhua said.

Wenzhou's airport cancelled 27 flights Sunday, the agency said.

A tourist from mainland China braves strong wind near the waterfront in Hong Kong. Photo / AP
A tourist from mainland China braves strong wind near the waterfront in Hong Kong. Photo / AP

Fitow quoted 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, with fishermen urged to return to port and local authorities told to prepare harbour facilities and sea walls for high tides.

In Zhejiang more than 35,000 boats returned to harbour while in Fujian nearly 30,000 vessels were called back, according to Xinhua.

Named after a flower from Micronesia, Fitow comes just two weeks after Typhoon Usagi wreaked havoc in the region leaving at least 25 reported dead in southern China.

Fitow, 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 surging 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, while the military ordered more than 20,000 troops on standby.

- AFP

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