At least 22 deaths have been reported, and more than a million have been forced to leave their homes after Typhoon Lekima smashed into China near Wenling in southeastern Zhejiang province, between Taiwan and Shanghai, the BBC reported on Sunday.
According to the BBC, a barrier lake (a natural dam) formed during the heavy rains and subsequently collapsed, resulting in a landslide that killed multiple people. At least 10 other individuals are reported missing following the incident, the BBC wrote, while damage is widespread and search and rescue crews are combing the area for survivors. Reuters previously reported a death count of 18 and 14 missing.
“Now the disaster zones are mainly in the rural-urban integration zones,” Ningbo City fire service rescue team chief Fu Songliang told Reuters, per the BBC. “…These are low-lying areas. When the flooding from mountainous areas converges and comes down, these areas are quite seriously affected.”
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China Global Television Network reported that a local official said the deaths occurred after “torrential rain caused a landslide on a mountain that blocked a river below,” causing a buildup that burst forth with great force upon the collapse of the barrier. Officials told the network that 120 villagers were unable to evacuate and water levels reached up to around 10 metres within 10 minutes.
Chinese authorities issued a red alert on Friday as the typhoon, which was then classified as a “super typhoon,” bore down on Zhejiang province. Hundreds of flights to and from Taiwan were canceled, and some 16,000 people were slated to be evacuated in Shanghai, according to the Shanghai Daily.
Reuters wrote that the storm is weakening as it moves north, but some 250,000 Shanghai residents and 800,000 in Zhejiang had been evacuated:
The deadly landslide occurred about 130 km north of the coastal city of Wenzhou, when a natural dam collapsed in an area deluged with 160 millimetres of rain within three hours, CCTV reported.
The storm was moving northward at 15 kph and was gradually weakening, Xinhua reported, citing the weather bureau.
High winds and heavy rains battered the financial hub of Shanghai on Saturday afternoon, and Shanghai Disneyland was shut for the day.
Chinese state media reported that at least 200 houses in six cities throughout Zhejiang had been destroyed, as well as some 163,830 acres of farmland were ruined, according to Reuters. Power outages were additionally reported to have affected over 2.7 million households.
According to the BBC, Lekima is the ninth typhoon of the season but the strongest reported in years, with winds moving at 187km per hour reported at landfall. It also coincided with a magnitude six earthquake a day earlier, loosing earth and increasing the likelihood of landslides.
“The heaviest rain is expected to extend from Shandong into far eastern Hebei and Tianjin into Jiaoning,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Adam Douty wrote. “In these areas, there can be widespread rainfall totals of 6-12 inches (150-300 mm) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 15 inches (375 mm)… River flooding could last for days after the rain ends as water slowly drains to the ocean.”
“The Beijing area will likely receive some rain, though it is not expected to be enough to cause flooding or major impacts as the heaviest rain falls farther to the east,” Douty added.