BEIJING – Three people are confirmed dead, five are missing and tens of thousands were evacuated as Typhoon Utor battered south China with strong winds and torrential rain, state media said Thursday.
More than one million people in Guangdong province have been affected by heavy rain and floods, Xinhua news agency quoted the provincial flood control headquarters as saying.
Some 161,500 people had to be relocated and nearly 1,500 homes wre destroyed. Several villages in the Zhanjiang and Wuchuan municipalities were flooded as embankments along the swollen Quehua River burst Wednesday.
The storm, which earlier left at least eight dead and a trail of damage in the Philippines, made landfall near Yangjiang in western Guangdong Wednesday afternoon with winds of over 150 kph (94 mph), Xinhua quoted local weather authorities as saying.
It moved into the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Wednesday night and was expected to remain there for four days.
Utor originally made landfall in the Philippines, where the confirmed death toll rose to eight Thursday.
Tens of thousands were displaced and whole towns badly damaged when the typhoon raked across the north Luzon on Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.
But the death toll was much lower than in past typhoons which killed hundreds, and council spokesman Reynaldo Balido said Filipinos were learning how to cope with about 20 storms that hit the country each year,
“People are aware of the danger and the risks of this kind of typhoon now, so they were able to conduct pre-emptive evacuations,” he said.
Nevertheless, two men were swept away by a flash flood while two fishermen were killed as the typhoon smashed their boat that they had taken ashore to shelter from the cyclone, Balido said.
A man drowned while trying to save his water buffalo from being carried away by an overflowing river, another man drowned while rescuing relatives from floodwaters, and a man was crushed by a landslide.
A woman was swept away while standing on the roof of a house as rescue teams and neighbours watched helplessly, he said.
The Philippine government reported four other people missing, mostly fishermen who went to sea before the storm hit.
Although Utor was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year, packing gusts of 200 kilometers an hour, Balido said it was unlikely the death toll would go sharply higher as all the affected areas had reported in.
More than 83,000 people still need assistance, including thousands who lost their homes, he added.
Utor ripped the roofs off houses, government buildings and churches as it flattened crops and toppled trees in parts of the Philippines before heading out to the South China Sea.
Packing winds of up to 150 kph at its center, it brushed past Hong Kong, where it forced the closure of financial markets, schools and businesses and disrupted hundreds of flights.
It also caused a 190-meter-long cargo ship to sink off Hong Kong Wednesday but all 21 crew were rescued.