East China Braces for Typhoon Wipha

Tuesday, September 18th 2007, 5:03 am
By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- China's commercial center of Shanghai was evacuating 200,000 people on Tuesday ahead of the expected arrival of Typhoon Wipha, potentially the most destructive storm to hit the city in a decade, local media reported.

Whipping up waves up to 36 feet high, Wipha was moving northwest across the sea north of Taiwan and was forecast to make landfall south of Shanghai early Wednesday, weather reports said.

``The typhoon is very likely to develop into the worst one in recent years. We are still observing it. It's hard to say at this moment,'' said a man who answered the phone at the city's meteorological bureau. As is common with Chinese officials, the man identified himself only by his surname, Fu.

At 9 a.m. (9 p.m. EDT) Tuesday, Wipha's center was located about 137 miles east of Taiwan's capital, Taipei, according to the Hong Kong Observatory's Web site.

Shanghai and the coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian to the south issued typhoon warnings requiring all vessels to return to shore or change course to avoid the storm, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

State-run newspapers reported that some 200,000 people living in coastal or low-lying rural areas of Shanghai were being evacuated as a precaution, although the city was only experiencing intermittent showers early Tuesday.

A worker was killed and another seriously injured Tuesday when scaffolding collapsed at a highway construction site in Taipei, Taiwan's Disaster Relief Center reported.

Schools, offices and the stock market in northern Taiwan were ordered closed as a precaution and flights from Taiwan to Japan, South Korea and a few other Asian countries were canceled, officials said.

The storm was upgraded from a tropical storm on Monday afternoon. Wipha is a woman's name in Thai.

The deadliest storm to hit the China coast in recent years was Typhoon Winnie in 1997, which killed 236 people. Typhoon Rananim, with winds of more than 100 mph, was the strongest typhoon to hit the Chinese mainland since 1956, killing nearly 200 people.