Typhoon Sarika, the 21st typhoon of the year, made landfall in south China's Hainan as torrential rain and gales lashed the island province.
The tropical cyclone, with maximum winds of up to 162 km per hour recorded in the eye of the storm, landed at Hele Town, Wanning City, at 9:50 a.m., according to the local meteorological bureau.
The National Meteorological Center issued a red alert, its highest-level alert, for Sarika, in the morning of October 18.
Nearly half a million people, including fishermen and residents in low-lying areas and unsafe houses in Hainan, have been evacuated , said Ding Sheng, a disaster relief official with the Hainan Civil Affairs Department.
The department has allocated relief materials such as tents and quilts, food and water to the typhoon-affected areas, he said.
Xinhua reporters saw waves surge and trees fall from the storm in coastal Wanning. The municipal authorities said more than 137,000 residents have been evacuated.
The typhoon also caused power cuts in parts of neighboring city Qionghai. Sections of the Wenqu River breached its banks and cut off road access for many in the city's Wanquan Township.
At the main airport, Meilan International Airport, in the provincial capital Haikou City, 250 flights were canceled, authorities said.
High speed train services were halted starting on October 17. Nearly 8,000 wireless communication base stations also began to disfunction due to the weather.
Local traffic police reported that gales and wet roads were to blame for the overturning of a passenger bus carrying 45 people on one of Hainan's major highways in the night of October 17. Severe waterlogging was reported in some counties and low-lying rural areas, in addition to landslides and mud-flows. Fortunately, there were no casualties.
However, 31 cattle in Dongxing, Wanning, where the storm landed, were electrocuted by a falling high-voltage line, which ran above the animals' shed. The residents of the farm were evacuated to a safe building in the evening of October 17.
Provincial meteorological station chief Cai Qinbo previously predicted losses from the typhoon would be "grave," as the cyclone was projected to be the most powerful and destructive to land in Hainan in a decade.
Cai drew an analogy between Sarika and a typhoon that hit Hainan in 2005 which triggered flash floods, destroyed roads and plantations.
From 8 a.m. on October 17 to 1 p.m. on October 18, four townships in Hainan reported more than 300 mm of rainfall, according to the provincial meteorological station.
Classes have been suspended in kindergartens, middle and primary schools in eight counties in the province, and tourist sites are closed to the public. Residents and tourists have been warned against hiking or strolling along the beaches.
Authorities have also ordered safety checks of reservoirs and power and water supplies, while demanding that fishery and farming entities take extra precautions.
To brace for Sarika, some coastal scenic spots in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region were closed. Nearly 8,000 tourists from Weizhou Island were evacuated October 17.
Sarika has also brought gales with a maximum speed of around 100 km per hour to the waters off Guangdong Province and six-meter-high offshore waves, according to the provincial flood control authorities.
(Xinhua News Agency October 18, 2016)