Tropical storm Muifa strikes China's east coast


A POWERFUL tropical storm continued to blast China’s heavily populated east coast yesterday, breaching a dyke near a chemical plant storing toxic agents and forcing the evacuation of more than 360,000 people.

Tropical storm Muifa, which weakened from a typhoon on Sunday, dumped up to 100 millimetres (4in) of rain on some coastal villages in Shandong province.

More than 20,000 fishing boats were recalled to harbour as the tempest made its way along the southeastern coast of the province.

Local governments have been ordered to ensure any response to the storm runs smoothly and efficiently.

After the controversially botched response to the Wenzhou high-speed train disaster last week, the government is keen to make sure that everything goes according to plan.

Waves of up to six metres could strike the coast and mudslides could cause major disruptions, authorities warned. The Central Meteorological Station reported coastal winds of 75km/h in Liaoning and Shandong provinces and heavy rain late yesterday afternoon.

This is typhoon season, when much of China’s eastern and southern coast is hit by powerful storms that annually wreak havoc and disrupt traffic and flights.

Muifa, the ninth typhoon to hit China this year, was moving at a speed of 25km/h, meteorologists said, and was due to make landfall between the northern province of Liaoning and neighbouring North Korea late last night.

The entire Liaodong Peninsula was expected to feel the brunt of the strong gales and heavy rainfall.

Flood control crews had established 756 temporary shelters, which were able to accommodate more than one million people; 6,000 troops were on hand to help with rescue and repair work once the storm had passed.

In the provincial capital Shenyang, workers with forklift trucks tried to shore up a dyke with concrete blocks and large rocks near the chemical plant breached by powerful waves.

The dyke was ruptured by waves as high as 20m in some cases. With high winds, there were fears that the Fujiahua chemical plant, which stores unspecified toxic chemicals, could be affected. Residents in nearby areas were being evacuated.

In neighbouring Jilin, the storm was expected to bring high winds and heavy rains, said Wang Xiaoming, head of the provincial meteorological observatory.

In Tianjin, the coastal port city nearest to the capital Beijing, a 400-strong team of rescue personnel, as well as more than 90 boats and three helicopters, has been mobilised to provide assistance with post-storm rescue efforts.

South Korea’s state weather agency, the Korea Meteorological Administration, said up to 200mm of rain were expected in some western areas of North Korea. Waves up to eight metres high were also expected along the coastal areas due to Muifa, the agency said.

Last week, Muifa brought down electricity cables, advertising hoardings and trees in the financial capital, Shanghai.

The tropical storm also claimed four victims in the Philippines and caused injuries and power cuts in southern Japan without making landfall.