Strongest May cyclone on record rocks China

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Typhoon Chanchu reached southern China at more than 100 miles an hour, killing 11 people and forcing more than a million to flee as the storm swept through coastal regions.

Chanchu hit the cities of Shantou and Xiamen early yesterday, according to the Hong Kong observatory, and the tropical cyclone caused landslides which swept away houses in their path.

Fishing boats were forced to berth in harbours across southern China as residents geared up for the storm. Typhoon warnings were issued in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are often the victims of direct hits. On this occasion, the eye of the storm crossed China's coast halfway between them.

The coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian took the full blast of the typhoon. More than 700,000 people were moved to safety in Fujian and more than 300,000 were evacuated in Guangdong, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Chanchu is the strongest tropical cyclone on record to enter the South China Sea during May, when the typhoon season starts in the region. Some environmentalists say tropical cyclones are becoming more intense and wind speeds rising as the surface temperature of southern tropical oceans increases. The storms draw strength from warm water and rage into China from the South China Sea regularly between May and September. Once they reach land they tend to lose power.

In Guangdong province, which adjoins Hong Kong, two children were killed when their houses collapsed after the typhoon hit Shantou city. Almost all of the roads in Shantou were flooded and there were electricity blackouts, Xinhua said.

In Taiwan, rescuers winched to safety the crew of an oil tanker which had run aground off Kaoshiung after being hit by a large wave.

Chanchu, meaning "pearl", formed in the Pacific about 340 miles east of Mindanao island in the Philippines on 9 May. It was expected to pose what the space agency Nasa, which monitors storms, called "a significant threat to south-east Asia". It hit the central Philippines on Saturday, killing at least 37 people and leaving more than 1,000 homeless. In Japan, three teenagers were swept off a beach. Vietnamese authorities said they were searching for 35 fisherman missing at sea, although they had established radio contact with other missing vessels.