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Megi threat appears to weaken before China landing

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 9:21 a.m. HST, Oct 21, 2010


HONG KONG >> Typhoon Megi's threat appeared to ease Thursday as it approached southern China, but residents kept up precautions for a storm that killed 20 people and damaged thousands of homes when it slammed into the northern Philippines.

Megi was located 280 miles southeast of the southern Chinese financial hub Hong Kong late Thursday morning, generating winds of 110 mph  — much weaker than the winds of 140 mph it inflicted on the Philippines, the Hong Kong Observatory said.

While traveling north over the South China Sea, it was expected to gain momentum Friday then pare back again Saturday to winds of 97 mph just before it strikes southern Guangdong province, according to the observatory. Its winds will further weaken to 50 mph on Sunday as it moves inland, the forecast said.

Still, officials and residents in the region were wary given the destruction Megi wreaked earlier in the week. In the Philippines, more than 330,000 people were affected by the typhoon, including 11,000 who fled to evacuation centers, officials said. About $110 million worth of infrastructure and crops were damaged and nearly 5,000 houses were damaged or destroyed, according to the government's disaster-response agency.

More than 48,000 fishing boats have returned to harbor in Guangdong, the state flood control office said Wednesday, while a Red Cross official warned about the risk of landslides. Officials are moving residents to high ground and shelters like schools, according to Wu Xiaoyi, Red Cross' head of disaster relief in Guangdong.

Waves of up to 20 feet were already being measured in the sea off Guangdong province, the State Oceanic Administration reported early Thursday.

Farther east in Fujian province, more than 150,000 people had been evacuated, the local government said Thursday.

In Hong Kong, while the weather was hazy and dry on Thursday, residents in a suburban village known for its coastal homes on stilts hunkered down. Villagers in Tai O installed metal barricades and moved electrical appliances refrigerators and washing machines to higher ground, Hong Kong's Apple Daily newspaper reported on Thursday.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said Thursday that Typhoon Megi was unlikely to make landfall on the island but warned residents in southern and eastern Taiwan to brace for heavy rains and landslides. It also cautioned ships off the southern and western parts of the island to be on the lookout out for rough seas.

In Hainan, the island province southwest of Hong Kong, 26,000 fishing boats returned to harbor and officials also prepared tents, flashlights, food and disinfectant, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Megi's impact was also felt as far as Japan, where it contributed to heavy rains that triggered floods and landslides in southern Kagoshima prefecture. Two women in their 80s and 90s were killed as their nursing home was swept away, local police officials said. Another woman in her 80s was missing after her home was crushed by landslides.

Separately, in Bangkok, officials were on guard for flooding as raging waters from annual monsoon rains were due to sweep down the Chao Phraya river into the Thai capital. Bangkok Deputy Gov. Porntep Techaipaibul said that officials have prepared more than 4 million sandbags.

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