China braces itself for typhoon as flood toll rises

BEIJING (AFP) - China braced itself for the arrival of Typhoon Trami on Wednesday with emergency officials making disaster relief preparations, as the country recovered from severe weather which left more than 150 people dead.

A "disaster relief response" had been issued, the National Disaster Reduction Commission said, as the typhoon approached the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang where it was expected to make landfall overnight on Wednesday.

The commission also urged provinces across central and southern China to prepare emergency services, particularly those that had already been battered by Typhoon Utor last week.

"As the typhoon-affected zone and the Utor affected zones overlap, and because of the short interval of time, water levels are already high and flooding may occur," the commission said in a statement on its website.

Ahead of making landfall in China, Trami was drenching Taiwan on Wednesday evening, where the Central Weather Bureau was still categorising it as a tropical storm.

Meanwhile, the death toll of construction workers killed when sudden rainstorms and hail battered Haixi in Qinghai province in the north-west rose to 24, authorities said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for "persistent efforts" to save victims from what Xinhua, the state news agency, described as "the worst floods in decades" in northeast China.

Authorities said 85 people in the region were confirmed dead, 105 missing, and some 3.74 million people had been affected by the severe weather.

The worst-affected province was Liaoning, where Guo Shouying, 54, told Xinhua: "Floodwater gushed out of the embankments and my mother was swept away.

"The neighbours heard her desperate calls for help, but the flood was so huge that no one dared to swim into the water to rescue her." Her mother's body was found 100 metres from her home in Xinbin the next day.

"One hand pressed her nose and her mouth was wide open, she was probably choked by water," said Ms Guo tearfully.

Another 49 people have perished in Hunan, central China, and in the southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi, the ministry of civil affairs announced.

Nearly 3,000 military personnel were mobilised to help with the relief efforts, Xinhua reported earlier.