SHANGHAI, China 9/18/07- A typhoon expected to be among the most powerful storms to hit China in years churned toward the densely populated coast on Tuesday with 165 mph wind gusts, and the government evacuated 1.8 million people.
The fringes of Typhoon Wipha lashed northern Taiwan, where schools, offices and the stock market closed. A construction worker was killed when the storm's winds knocked down scaffolding, Taiwan's Disaster Relief Center said.
City authorities ordered schools closed Wednesday in Shanghai, a city of more than 20 million and China's financial hub. Chinese state-run television showed families being evacuated from fishing boats and other vessels. Shopkeepers stacked sand bags to prevent flooding as drains clogged amid torrential rains.
The typhoon, whipping up waves up to 36 feet high, was moving northwest toward the Chinese mainland.
By midnight local time, the typhoon appeared to be weakening and looked likely to hit land early Wednesday further south of Shanghai than originally forecast, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing local meteorologists.
Wipha, a woman's name in Thai, was upgraded from a tropical storm Monday. With wind gusts of up to 165 mph, local meteorological officials said earlier it could be the most destructive storm to hit the Shanghai area in years.
"The typhoon is very likely to develop into the worst one in recent years," said a man who answered the phone at the city's meteorological bureau. As is common with Chinese officials, the man identified himself only by his surname, Fu.
Shanghai and the coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian to the south issued typhoon warnings requiring all vessels to return to shore or change course to avoid the storm, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
It said that 1.8 million people living in coastal or low-lying areas of Shanghai, Zhejiang and Fujian had been evacuated.
The deadliest storm to hit the China coast in recent years was Typhoon Winnie in 1997, which killed 236 people. Typhoon Rananim, with winds of more than 100 mph, was the strongest typhoon to hit the Chinese mainland since 1956, killing nearly 200 people.
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