Death toll from typhoon in eastern China rises to 32 as storm moves north

Rescuers looking for survivors in the rubble of damaged buildings after a landslide caused by torrential rain from Typhoon Lekima in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, on Aug 10, 2019.
Rescuers looking for survivors in the rubble of damaged buildings after a landslide caused by torrential rain from Typhoon Lekima in Wenzhou, Zhejiang, on Aug 10, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – The death toll from a major typhoon in eastern China rose to 32 on Sunday (Aug 11), with 16 people missing, state broadcaster CCTV reported, as the country braced for more travel disruptions as the storm moved further north up the coast.

Typhoon Lekima made landfall early on Saturday in the eastern province of Zhejiang with winds gusting to 187 km per hour, causing travel chaos with thousands of flights cancelled and rail operations suspended. 

The typhoon damaged more than 189,000ha of crops and 36,000 homes in Zhejiang, according to provincial authorities who estimated the economic losses at 16.6 billion yuan (S$3.29 billion), state news agency Xinhua said.

Lekima, China’s ninth typhoon of this year, is expected to make a second landing along the coastline in Shandong province, prompting more flight cancellations and the closure of some expressways, Xinhua and state broadcaster CCTV said.

In Zhejiang, many of the deaths occurred about 130 km north of the coastal city of Wenzhou, where a natural dam collapsed in an area deluged with 160 mm  of rain within three hours, causing a landslide, Xinhua reported. 

State media reports showed rescuers wading in waist-high waters to evacuate people from their homes, while the Ministry of Emergency Management said that more than one million people in the financial hub of Shanghai, as well as Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, have been evacuated due to the typhoon. 

An estimated 3,200 flights were cancelled, state broadcaster CCTV reported, although some suspensions on high-speed railway lines were lifted on Sunday.

Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines were among those that announced flight cancellations. Shanghai and Hangzhou airports are restoring operations gradually, according to Ctrip's flight tracking data and the local government.

Taiwanese airlines cancelled about 520 international and domestic flights, according to local aviation authorities.

Emergency units are working to repair roads, water and electricity, Global Times, a tabloid published by the Communist Party's People's Daily, reported on its weibo account.


Mainland China's main financial hub had braced for Lekima after the typhoon ravaged Taiwan and affected Japan. Government offices, schools and businesses, including financial markets, were shut across northern Taiwan last Friday. More than 50,000 homes lost power overnight last Thursday, though electricity was mostly restored by last Friday morning.

Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Centre reported at least one death and four injuries in the wake of the storm.

At least four people were hurt in Okinawa, while flights and ferries across the southern Japanese islands experienced widespread disruptions, according to a report by the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said Lekima had sustained wind speeds of 184kph, with gusts of 227kph an hour last Friday morning.

Mr Scott Hsieh, a senior meteorologist at CWB, said it was the strongest typhoon in the western Pacific so far this year.