Photo in the News: "Supertyphoon" Batters China Coast

Super typhoon Saomai batters China coast (photo)
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August 11, 2006—A woman surveys the debris of her house in China's Zhejiang Province after it was struck by Typhoon Saomai—the most powerful storm to hit China in 50 years.

Saomai has killed at least 104 people, caused massive blackouts, and destroyed more than 50,000 homes after making landfall yesterday in the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang.

The storm has been dubbed a "supertyphoon" because of its massive size and powerful winds that peaked at 170 miles (274 kilometers) an hour. More than 1.5 million people were evacuated as the storm approached.

"It is the strongest typhoon that we have ever seen," an unnamed official told China's Xinhua News Agency.

China last encountered a storm of Saomai's fury in 1956, when a typhoon with winds of 145 miles (234 kilometers) an hour killed 4,900 and wounded 15,000 in Zhejiang, Xinhua reports.

(Related story: "Cyclone Larry Devastates Australian Towns, Crops; Second Storm Approaches" [March 21, 2006].)

Saomai was downgraded to a tropical storm early this morning, but officials warned that torrential rains this weekend could cause mudslides and further flooding. The storm is headed into rural Jiangxi and Anhui Provinces—areas still recovering from tropical storm Bilis, which killed more than 600 people last month.

Saomai is the eighth major storm to hit China in an unusually violent typhoon season.

Already, scientists are watching tropical storm Bopha as it trails Saomai's path across the Pacific. Last week, Typhoon Prapiroon killed at least 80 people on China's southern coast. In total, this typhoon season has left 752 dead and 280 missing, according to Xinhua.

Chinese forecasters say a warming current in the northwestern Pacific is causing stronger storms, while high temperatures above Tibet and the Qinghai Province are drawing them farther inland.

—Aalok Mehta

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