Super Typhoon Swirls Toward China

Policemen help a man evacuate in Yuhuan county, Zhejiang.
Policemen help a man evacuate in Yuhuan county, Zhejiang.
The sun sets in Wenzhou, the day before Saomai is set to hit the city.
The sun sets in Wenzhou, the day before Saomai is set to hit the city.

 Authorities have evacuated 1.3 million people from their homes in southeastern China as a super typhoon swirled towards them.

Typhoon Saomai -- which has already dumped torrential rains on Taiwan -- made landfall Thursday afternoon, according to Taiwan's central weather bureau.

The typhoon had been gathering strength as it neared China, and is a category four storm, packing sustained winds of 216 kilometers per hour (134 miles per hour).

One of three storms to have threatened east Asia in the past few days, Saomai made landfall in in Cangnan county near the booming city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, Reuters news agency quoted state television as saying.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Wenzhou airport had closed and hundreds of passengers were stranded, Reuters quoted one airport manager as saying.

Saomai, the Vietnamese word for the planet Venus, will be the eighth big storm to hit China during this year's typhoon season.

The storm was headed towards areas that were pounded by Tropical Storm Bilis, which killed more than 600 people last month.

Another typhoon, Prapiroon, lashed China's southern coast last week, killing at least 80 people, The Associated Press reported.

At least 569,000 people have been evacuated from Fujian province while another 760,000 have moved from the vulnerable coastal areas of Zhejiang, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Nearly 34,000 vessels in Zhejiang and more than 36,000 vessels in Fujian returned to port, the agency reported.

On Wednesday, Saomai passed across the Japanese island of Okinawa, prompting airlines to cancel 141 flights and affecting 24,000 passengers, AP reported.

Worsening the potential threat, another tropical storm, called Bopha, is trailing behind Saomai and is also heading towards the Chinese coast.

Bopha crossed Taiwan overnight, with sustained winds of 65 kph (40 mph), Taiwan's weather bureau said.

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