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China downgrades Haikui to tropical storm after grounding planes

    In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, workers repair transmission lines damaged by strong wind brought by Typhoon Haikui on a provincial highway of Songmen Twonship in Wenling City, east China's Zhejiang Province, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. The typhoon slammed into eastern Zhejiang province early Wednesday, packing winds up to 150 kilometers (90 miles) per hour and triggering flooding. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Sun Jinbiao) NO SALES

Typhoon Haikui weakened to a tropical storm today after lashing eastern China with rain and wind, forcing Shanghai to raise its highest-level alert and airlines to cancel flights to and from the city.

Haikui, which made landfall in Zhejiang province today at 3:20 a.m., was located near the city of Huzhou as of 5 p.m., according to the National Meteorological Center. The storm, which had maximum windspeeds of about 67 miles per hour, was moving northwest. No deaths or injuries were yet to be reported.

Shanghai evacuated 252,000 people ahead of the storm and 1.5 million people were relocated in Zhejiang, which neighbors the city to the south, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Haikui, the third typhoon to hit China in a week, had dumped about 13 to 17 inches of rain in Xiangshan, Ninghai and Taizhou of Zhejiang as of this morning.

Shanghai’s stock and futures exchanges continued operating today even afte the city’s weather center raised the typhoon alert to red, the highest level, at 11:30 a.m. local time.

China Eastern Airlines Corp., China Southern Airlines Co. and Air China Ltd. were among carriers that scrapped flights to Shanghai’s two airports, Shanghai International Airport Co. said on its official microblog hosted on Sina Corp.’s Weibo service. China Eastern, Air China and Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. also canceled flights to and from the cities of Hangzhou and Ningbo, according to their websites.

Trains, Ports

The Shanghai Railway Bureau suspended the operation of some trains, including services between Shanghai and Hangzhou. The city’s metro operator also closed portions of the No. 2, 6 and 9 lines, and shut the magnetic levitation train that serves Pudong International Airport.

Shanghai International Port Group Co. shut operations at its ports from last night due to “gusty winds,” and may only resume operations early tomorrow, said Jin Cun Liang, general manager of the operations department.

Haikui was forecast to dump “lasting heavy rains” in the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui and the municipality of Shanghai for the next three days, the weather agency said.

Typhoons Saola and Damrey killed at least 16 people when it made landfall in China last week.

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