China evacuates 865,000 as super typhoon nears Zhejiang

Shanghai, July  11,

Super typhoon Chan-hom barrelled towards eastern China near commercial hub Shanghai today, prompting the evacuation of more than 865,000 people after earlier lashing Japan’s Okinawa island chain and Taiwan.

The powerful storm could be the strongest typhoon to make landfall in Zhejiang province, which borders Shanghai to the south, for the month of July since 1949, China’s National Meteorological Centre (NMC) said.

Today morning , the typhoon was around 115 km southeast of Zhejiang province over the East China Sea packing winds of up to 187 km per hour, the NMC said. It was forecast to make landfall in Zhejiang today afternoon, striking near the port city of Ningbo before approaching Shanghai.

In addition to the large-scale evacuations, the province had called nearly 30,000 fishing boats back to port after waves reached up to 10 metres high off the coast, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Local television showed heavy rain and wind lashing the coastal province under grey skies. The storm left five people dead in the Philippines earlier in the week and injured more than 20 people in Japan yesterday as strong winds uprooted trees and battered buildings, the Tokyo Broadcasting System broadcaster reported.

Four people were also injured by falling trees in Taiwan when the storm buffeted the island on yesterday.

Shanghai had issued the second most serious typhoon alert, but had so far ruled out a direct hit on the city of 23 million. Chan-hom was around 370 km from Shanghai today morning.

The city government urged people to stay home, as the weather disrupted scores of flights, trains and buses from Shanghai. China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines cancelled around 400 flights on Saturday, state media said.

Traffic thinned on the streets, though some people on motorcycles and even bicycles braved the rain, which blew down small branches.