ZHONGSHAN, China (AFP) — Tropical storm Fengshen struck China's southeastern coast Wednesday, bringing torrential downpours to a region reeling from heavy rains and deadly flooding since early June.
The storm, which also packed high winds, made landfall in Guangdong province early in the morning, closing schools and disrupting air traffic across the region and in neighbouring Macau and Hong Kong, Xinhua news agency reported.
One crew member of a container ship was missing after falling into the sea as the storm tossed the vessel off the city of Shanwei in Guangdong, Xinhua said.
More than 13,000 ships returned to Guangzhou's bustling port in advance of the storm, the agency said.
Heavy downpours in the nearby city of Zhongshan limited road visibility to just a few dozen metres (yards), forcing some motorists to stop their vehicles, an AFP reporter witnessed.
The Hong Kong Airport Authority said 70 inbound or outbound flights servicing the city were delayed or cancelled due to the storm, Xinhua reported, adding that dozens of flights were similarly affected at other Chinese airports.
Fengshen, which means the God of Wind, killed more than 1,000 people in the Philippines while categorised as a typhoon and took a surprise turn towards southern China on Tuesday night.
Fengshen, now downgraded to a tropical storm, had been expected to swing into the South China Sea from the Philippines and track northwards to Taiwan but instead veered northwest, Hong Kong's observatory said.
Xinhua quoted Guangdong's meteorological authority as saying the storm would move slowly north and gradually lose strength.
However, it was expected to continue to dump heavy rains on areas of eastern and southeastern China that have been experiencing deadly downpours.
"It has rained for two straight months already. The weather has been very strange this year compared to last year," Tang Xueyu, a Zhongshan school teacher, told AFP. "The rains have really affected local farmers."
The rains earlier in June, the worst in more than a century for some regions, killed at least 176 people and left 52 missing in flood-related incidents as of last week, according to Chinese state media.
Fengshen's landfall was preceded by heavy gales and the storm was expected to dump up to 200 mm (eight inches) of rain on the Guangdong city of Shenzhen on Wednesday and Thursday, Xinhua said.
The China Central Meteorological Station said heavy rains would sweep Guangdong, Fujian, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces for several days.
The storm triggered a morning suspension of Hong Kong Stock Exchange trading and paralysed public transport in the southern Chinese territory.
Some tourists were stranded in nearby Macau Tuesday night after ferry services between Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen were halted.
The Chinese flooding earlier this month forced more than 1.6 million people to be evacuated, submerged large tracts of farmland and caused economic losses exceeding 2 billion dollars, according to the government.
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