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Storm Kammuri Prompts Evacuation of Nearly 400,000 People

At least 388,000 people in Guangdong, Hainan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have been evacuated due to tropical storm Kammuri, the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said on Wednesday.

Chen Dianlong, its deputy director, said most of them - 320,000 - were from Guangdong Province.

About 42,000 ships had also returned to harbor, he said.

Almost 78,000 people working at sea and 85,100 in coastal areas were evacuated to safety before the storm arrived, the Guangdong flood control and drought relief office said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, the provincial flood control center issued an emergency III signal and sent several teams to the coastal cities of Maoming, Yangjiang, Zhuhai and Jiangmen, to prepare for possible natural disasters triggered by the storm.

Liu Pan, an official with the Jiangmen flood control and drought relief office, said yesterday the storm had brought winds of up to gale force 10 near Shangchuan Island in the coastal county of Taishan.

"All ships were called back to harbor last night, but we have not received any reports of people being killed or missing," he told China Daily.

Also yesterday, the Guangdong provincial weather authority sent about 40 million mobile phone messages to warn people to prepare for the storm.

Huang Zhong, chief forecaster with the Guangdong weather bureau, said: "The tropical storm formed in the South China Sea and will bring heavy rains, which are expected to affect the province over the next two days."

The storm will head northwest to the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region after making landfall, he said.

Prior to its arrival, most cities in the Pearl River Delta region experienced heavy rain and strong winds, he said.

In Shenzhen on Wednesday, all flights and shipping operations were suspended for safety reasons.

Two of the flights were scheduled to carry 24 horses to Hong Kong for the Olympic equestrian events, but even those were suspended, a spokesman for the event's organizers said.

The equestrian venue in Sha Tin also suffered minor damage, as a result of the strong winds, the spokesman said.

The Hong Kong home affairs department has opened 21 temporary shelters for people in need of refuge during the storm, the regional government said on its website.

As of 10 am yesterday, all ferry, tram and peak tram services, and most bus services had been suspended, it said, adding that flight schedules and operations at Hong Kong International Airport had also been disrupted.

(China Daily August 7, 2008)

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