China Warns Millions as Strong Typhoon Approaches Coast

A Taiwanese woman makes her way against powerful gusts of wind generated by typhoon Lekima in Taipei, Taiwan, on Friday. (AP photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

BEIJING (AP) — China issued its top warning for coastal areas of Zhejiang province Friday as a strong typhoon carrying heavy rain and winds was expected to send an intense storm surge up the mighty Yangzte River.

Heavy rain was expected in Zhejiang, Shanghai and nearby provinces on Friday before Typhoon Lekima hits land on Saturday morning, then weakens as it moves north.

Parts of northern Taiwan closed offices and suspended classes at schools Friday as the storm passed northeast of the island. The area was hit by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake Thursday that caused minor damage but no deaths or injuries.

The red alert China issued is the most serious in its four-tired alert system, prompting authorities to prepare evacuations, suspend train and air travel and require vessels to return to port. In Zhejiang, ferry service has been canceled and more than 200 tourists were evacuated from popular Beiji island.

The National Meteorological Center said Lekima was gusting at 130 mph and traveling northwesterly at 8 mph. Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau put its sustained winds at 108 mph and said the bands of wind and rains around the storm’s eye were shrinking.

The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters warned authorities overseeing seven provinces, including Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangsu and Shanghai Municipality, to make preparations and have emergency response systems ready to be deployed. In Zhejiang, nearly 5,000 fishing boats have been recalled to port, authorities said.

An intense storm surge was expected to raise waters in the estuary of the Yangzte River, China’s largest, beginning Friday. Three main streams of the Yangzte River are likely to exceed alert levels and the commission overseeing the river for the Ministry of Water Resources has ordered efforts to prevent floods and oversaturation of levees along the river’s banks.

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