Storm Doksuri drenches north China, thousands evacuate Beijing

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Rain soaked northern China on Saturday as Doksuri, one of the strongest storms to hit the country in years, prompted thousands to evacuate in Beijing after pummeling the Philippines and Taiwan, and lashing China’s coast.

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A broad area encompassing the capital faces medium to high risk of rainstorm disasters over the coming three days, China’s national forecaster said. Thunderstorms in the capital were forecast to peak on Saturday.

As the storm rolls inland, cumulative rainfall of 100 mm (4 inches) or more was forecast over 220,000 square km (85,000 square miles), potentially affecting 130 million people.

“Doksuri’s intensity continues to weaken but the impact is far from over,” the China Meteorological Administration said, warning the public to be vigilant and avoid high-risk areas in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region where localized rainfall could reach 600 mm (two feet).

Over the weekend, small and medium-sized rivers in southern Beijing, central and western areas of Hebei, eastern Shanxi and northern Henan could swell above warning levels, while flash floods and geological hazards could occur around mountainous areas.

Beijing authorities suspended sports events, while a number of tourist spots and parks were shut. The city’s flood control department said it has mobilized 203,230 rescue personnel and 3,031 people had been evacuated, local media reported.

Doksuri is the most powerful typhoon to hit China this year and the second-strongest to hit the southeastern province of Fujian since Typhoon Meranti in 2016. It forced the closure of schools and businesses and the evacuation of workers from offshore oil and gas fields, state media said.

Since such records began in 1951, only a dozen other typhoons have reached or passed through Beijing, with one in 1956 having the greatest impact, dumping 249 mm (10 inches) of rain on one weather station.

Moving northwest and deeper inland, the storm weakened into a tropical depression in Anhui province early on Saturday at winds of 30 kph (20 miles per hour), but as its wind speeds continued to ease off, Doksuri’s center became harder to determine.

The central province of Henan and Shandong in the east will experience heavy rainfall, the forecaster said, warning of mountain torrents, geological disasters and waterlogging.

Doksuri made landfall on Friday, downing power lines and uprooting trees, affecting around 880,000 people in coastal Fujian with more than 354,400 people evacuated and resettled, and causing over $67 million (478 million yuan) in direct economic losses, state media reported.

In Doksuri’s wake, social media posts showed emergency workers clearing fallen trees and landslides, and people wading in thigh-high flood waters.

Other damage reported around Fujian province included a billboard ripped off a hotel building by winds in Putian city, a large tree falling over a man who was later rescued and a garment factory in port city Quanzhou catching fire.

Provincial media reported rescue efforts in the storm’s aftermath, of elderly trapped at home and a heavily pregnant woman, who was transferred to hospital on a stretcher in knee-deep waters.

By later in the day, cities were beginning to recover.

Fuzhou, which suspended metro services on Saturday morning due to waterlogged subway stations, resumed operations in the afternoon. The city, along with neighboring cities Putian and Xianyou, reported the heaviest daily precipitation since 1961.

Before hitting China, Doksuri roared through Taiwan and the northern Philippines, where rain and strong winds that led to the capsize of a ferry in which at least 25 people died.

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