BEIJING (Agencies): China’s first typhoon of the year has brought gales and rain to its southern shores, as forecasters warn of record rainfall and high disaster risk in provinces including Guangdong, the country’s most populous. Typhoon Chaba, the Thai name for the hibiscus flower, was moving northwest at 15-20km (10 to 15 miles) per hour after the eye of the storm made landfall in Guangdong’s Maoming city on Saturday afternoon, the National Meteorological Center said in a statement.
Chaba, though medium in intensity and expected to lose strength over time, is likely to bring extremely heavy rains and may break the record for cumulative rainfall as it pulls the monsoon rain belt in the region inland, said Gao Shuanzhu, the centre’s chief forecaster. “The abundant monsoon water vapour will lead to intense downpours and huge cumulative rainfall of an extreme nature,” Gao said, predicting up to 600mm (24 inches) of cumulative rainfall in some areas.
At risk are the west of Guangdong, where China’s typhoons usually linger, the east of Guangxi autonomous region and the island province of Hainan, with rainstorms causing landslides, urban waterlogging and floods, Gao said. Hainan upgraded its emergency response to Level II, the second-highest, on Saturday. It suspended railway service across the island and cancelled more than 400 flights to and from the cities of Haikou and Sanya.
In Macau, one person was injured due to the wind and rain on Chaba’s approach, state televisions reported. In recent weeks, historic rainfall and flooding in southern China have destroyed property, paralysed traffic and disrupted the daily lives of millions in one of the country’s most populous and economically key regions.
Extreme weather including unusually heavy flooding is expected to continue in China through August, forecasters predicted this week, with climate change partly blamed.
More than two dozen crew members are unaccounted for after an engineering vessel with 30 people on board broke into two in the South China Sea on Saturday, officials said. Three crew members were rescued as operations to locate the missing crew members continued about 300km (200 miles) southwest of Hong Kong. The three survivors were found as of 3pm local time (07:00 GMT) and were taken to hospital for treatment, the Hong Kong Government Flying Service said.
Dramatic footage provided by Hong Kong authorities showed a person being airlifted onto a helicopter while waves crashed over the deck of the semi-submerged ship below. Other crew members may have been swept away by waves before the first helicopter arrived, according to a government statement. Authorities in Hong Kong raised the typhoon warning on Thursday just as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in the city to commemorate the 25th anniversary of its handover from Britain to China. Rescuers in Hong Kong were notified of the incident and found the ship near Chaba’s centre, where harsh weather conditions and nearby wind farms made the operation “more difficult and dangerous”.
The ship’s location recorded wind speeds of 144kmph (90mph) and waves that were 10 metres (33 feet) high, authorities said. The Government Flying Service dispatched two sorties of fixed-wing aircraft and four helicopter sorties, with mainland Chinese authorities also dispatching a rescue boat. Rescuers said they would increase the search area “due to the large number of people missing” and extend the operation into the night if conditions allowed.