32 killed, 6.51 million affected as Typhoon Lekima strikes China

At least 32 people were killed and 16 were missing when Typhoon Lekima swept across the eastern China's Zhejiang province on Saturday, the local authorities in Zhejiang said on Sunday.

Lekima, which has moved northward, has affected a total of 6.51 million people, with nearly 1.5 million having been relocated to safer places in Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Fujian as of 5 pm on Sunday, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

The typhoon has damaged more than 265,500 hectares of crops and 35,000 houses, it said.

More than 30,000 firefighters in Zhejiang, Shanghai and Jiangsu assisted in the rescue and relocation of 6,257 people in distress, the ministry said.

Most of the deaths occurred in the Yongjia county, administered by Wenzhou city, when the collapse of a dam caused flash floods that swept away many people.

More than 5.35 million people were affected in Zhejiang alone, and 185,000 hectares of crops damaged. The economic loss has been estimated at 15.75 billion yuan ($2.23 billion).

Nearly 1.2 million people have been moved to safer places, the local authorities said. Rescue work is still underway.

Lekima made its landfall at around 1:45 am on Saturday in Wenling city, Zhejiang province, packing winds of as high as 52 meters per second, triggering heavy rainstorms, the National Meteorology Center said.

According to the center, it was the third strongest typhoon to hit eastern China since 1949. The first was Wanda in 1956 and the second Saomai in 2006.

The ministry has despatched nine rescue teams constituted by the ministry's Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters to nine regions likely to be affected by the typhoon in the next few days, including provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Liaoning.

The NMC said that in the next three days, Lekima would move northward and gradually weaken, but it could still bring torrential rains in northern and eastern China.

By 10 am on Sunday, the provincial ocean forecasting and monitoring center canceled the warning on sea areas, saying fishing boats in Zhejiang can get back to business.

Except for a few flights, all the others are back in service.

Operations at the airports and rail services within the Yangtze Delta River region returned to normal on Sunday as the typhoon moved away from the Shanghai municipality.

A wind damper located on the 125th floor of Shanghai Tower, the country's tallest skyscraper and the world's second tallest, swayed at a range of 50 centimeters on Saturday. The damper can sway at a maximum of 2 meters to keep the 632-meter-tall building in Lujiazui Financial District stand firm against gales, according to the information department of the building. A damper is a counterbalance mechanism that skyscrapers use to offset wind-induced vibrations on the building's structure.

The Shanghai Disney Resort, which was closed on Saturday, reopened on Sunday.

He Lifu, the chief weather forecaster at the NMC, said the impact of the Lekima typhoon will be felt by the provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui, and Shanghai municipality in the next three days in the form of strong winds and heavy rainfall.

The typhoon swept across Shandong at around 8:50 pm on Sunday, although torrential rains have already struck the area. Precipitation in Weifang and Linyi was measured at 407 millimeters on Saturday.

A total of 55 red alerts have been issued, warning of torrential rain throughout the province.

The province's Shouguang city, also called China's town of vegetables, was severely hit by rain. A video footage on the internet showed vegetable greenhouses submerged in water on Sunday.

In East China's Anhui province, the typhoon caused torrential floods in Xuancheng city, which left a government official dead and affected more than 52,000 people, the local management authority said on Saturday. The official from Jixi county died in a landslide while overseeing rescue work.

Even as Lekima keeps moving northward, Liaoning and Hebei provinces are expected to see heavy downpour on Monday. The storm will head toward Jilin province and Inner Mongolia autonomous region the following day, said the center.

Ma Zhenhuan, Zhao Ruixue, Zhou Wenting and Wu Yong contributed to this story.