05/18/2006, 00.00
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Typhoon Chanchu forces evacuation of 630,000 people

The first typhoon of the season is expected to make landfall between Fujian and Guangdong. In its passage it has already swept two sisters to their death.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese authorities have ordered the evacuation of more than 630,000 people as typhoon Chanchu roars towards the country's southern coast.

Chanchu, the first typhoon to hit the region this season, is expected to make landfall near Shantou in Guangdong, or close to Fujian, early today.

Xinhua last night reported that more than 307,000 people in Fujian had been evacuated from coastal areas. In Guangdong, 327,000 residents were also moved to safety. And 42,000 vessels were ordered to seek safe harbour.

The typhoon caused relatively little damage yesterday, but dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen.

In Taiwan, there were dramatic scenes when Chanchu grounded a small oil tanker off Kaohsiung. There were 13 crewmen aboard—nine from Indonesia and four from the mainland—who were airlifted by a helicopter after four hours at sea.

In Pingtung, huge waves swept two sisters away as they were having a barbecue by a rising river. Their bodies were found several hours later, police said.

The Fujian Meteorological Bureau reported a few cases of landslides and flooding. Schools in the province were ordered shut down and officials in Shantou have been put on high alert to prepare for Chanchu's landfall.

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