Storm lashes south China after Philippines

BEIJING Wed Jun 25, 2008 6:13am BST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Tropical storm Fengshen struck south China on Wednesday after tearing through the Philippines last week, bringing driving rain, uprooting trees and closing schools, markets and businesses in Hong Kong.

Bamboo scaffolding toppled and trees lay felled across near-deserted highways in the former British colony as the city's famed Victoria harbour churned with heavy swells.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Markets closed as gusts in outlying areas neared 186 kph (115 mph), but will open for trading on Wednesday afternoon at 7:30 a.m. British time as the storm moved inland and the wealthy city of 7 million lowered its cyclone warning.

Fengshen, downgraded from a typhoon this week, tore through the central Philippines on Saturday, triggering flashfloods and power outages. Hundreds are feared dead after a ferry ran aground and capsized.

Fengshen, meaning "wind god" in Chinese, made landfall to the east of Hong Kong, bringing heavy rains to Guangdong province, China's industrial hub, which has already been ravaged by some of the worst summer flooding in decades.

It is expected to move north across Guangdong and dump torrential rains across a wide swathe of southern China, including Fujian, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, Xinhua news agency said, citing meteorological authorities.

About 200 mm (eight inches) of rain are expected to fall on Guangdong export hub Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, by Thursday, Xinhua said. Schools there were closed on Wednesday.

Hong Kong's airport authority said outgoing flights had been delayed. More than 13,000 boats and ships had returned to harbour ahead of the storm's arrival, Xinhua said.

Rainstorms and flooding, concentrated in China's heavily industrialised south, have killed more than 200 people already this year, and forced the evacuation of nearly 1.7 million.

Continuous summer rains have swelled major lakes in eastern China to dangerous levels, prompting flood warnings in the Yangtze River Delta region, the China Daily said, citing the Ministry of Water Resources.

Typhoons regularly hit China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan in the summer months, gathering strength from warm sea waters before weakening over land.

(Reporting by Edwin Chan and James Pomfret in Hong Kong, and Ian Ransom and Nick Macfie in Beijing; Editing by Ben Tan)

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