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China braces for record third typhoon in a week

1.24 million people have been evacuated in seven provinces

Image Credit: Reuters
Dark clouds cover the sky in downtown Shanghai on Monday.Heavy rains were forecast in many areas in south andeast China until Tuesday as Typhoon Haikui is movingnorthwestward from Okinawa, Japan.
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Beijing/Hong Kong: China braced on Monday for a record third typhoon in a week after two powerful storms smashed into its eastern coast over the weekend, leaving at least 14 people dead and large areas under water.

Five people were missing after Typhoons Saola and Damrey drenched the coastline from Friday, state press said in initial damage reports.

“We are still dealing with the impact of Typhoons Saola and Damrey and now Typhoon Haikui is heading towards us,” Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said in a statement.

“Within seven days our nation may be hit successively by three typhoons, the first time such circumstances have arisen since records have been taken.”

Chen issued an emergency warning to people in the eastern Zhejiang province to brace for the arrival of Haikui on Tuesday, with the storm expected to dump up to 70cm of rain in some areas.

Haikui may get stronger as it approaches the coast, Chen said in statements posted on his ministry’s website, as he ordered areas adjacent to Zhejiang, including Shanghai and Jiangsu province, to step up precautions.

At least nine people were confirmed dead and four missing after Damrey tore through the northeastern Liaoning province, with the toll likely to rise, the provincial government said.

State television showed swollen rivers and flooded towns and villages as rescue workers scrambled in downpours to evacuate those stranded.

According to the state Xinhua news agency, rescuers were racing to save about 350 construction workers trapped in a railway tunnel.

“Damrey was the strongest typhoon to hit our nation north of the Yangtze river since 1949,” Chen said.

Saola left five people dead and one missing as it inundated parts of Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, according to preliminary damage reports.

China is routinely ravaged by summertime typhoons, which normally wreak havoc in regions along the central Yangtze river and in the south.

Toxic pellets

Meanwhile, the cleanup from Hong Kong’s worst typhoon in 13 years could take months, the government said Monday, after hundreds of millions of plastic pellets washed onto beaches from containers that fell off a ship.

Environmental groups are concerned the pellets will absorb toxins and pollutants and then be eaten by fish that may in turn be eaten by humans. They’re also worried rare marine species such as the Chinese white dolphin could be threatened by the pollutants.

Also known as nurdles, the pellets are used by factories to make plastic products.

Authorities say six containers filled with the pellets were lost from a ship in waters south of Hong Kong when it was caught in Typhoon Vicente last month.

Several hundred volunteers at one beach Sunday used trowels, paintbrushes, dustpans and sieves to painstakingly pick up the translucent pellets, which coated the shore.

“It’s a bit overwhelming. It seems like we can’t get rid of them even though there are hundreds of people here,” said Mathis Antony, one of the volunteers on Lamma Island off the western coast of Hong Kong Island. “It looks like it’s going to take a lot more to clean it up.”

The volunteers filled dozens of garbage bags but there were still many pellets left at the end of the day, piled like snow between rocks.

The government said Monday it would deploy additional manpower and contract out work to speed the cleanup, which could still take several months.

The typhoon prompted authorities to raise the storm warning system to its highest level, indicating hurricane-force winds of 118 kilometers (73 miles) an hour or more, for the first time since 1999.

The government said large amounts of pellets have been found at 10 beaches. At some beaches, numerous sacks filled with pellets and bearing the markings of the manufacturer, China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., or Sinopec, have also washed ashore.