Storm expected to make landfall by early Saturday in southeastern part of Zhejiang
The country's southeastern and eastern coastal regions have been gearing up for Typhoon Lekima. The storm is expected to hit Zhejiang province head-on by early Saturday morning.
The province on Friday activated its top-level emergency response for typhoons, while neighboring Shanghai and Jiangsu province are also on high alert. Ships have returned to port, some railway services are suspended and flights have been canceled.
The National Meteorological Center issued a red alert for Lekima on Friday, saying wind speeds in the center of the storm system were sustained at about 55 meters per second, making it the strongest typhoon to hit the nation this year.
At 5 pm on Friday, the center of Lekima was still over water, about 145 kilometers southeast of Wenling, Zhejiang. It's expected to make landfall in the southeast of the province very early Saturday morning, the forecast said.
Downpours are expected in the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shanghai, northern Fujian, eastern Anhui, southern Shandong and in northwestern Jiangxi, as well as central and southern Taiwan, from 8 pm Friday to 8 pm Saturday. Eastern Zhejiang and some of the province's northwestern areas will be hit by severe storms, the center said.
The center also expects wind and rainstorms to last for an extended period after Lekima makes landfall. It's expected to travel through Shandong over the following days at lower speeds, bringing continuous rainfall to the region, even to Beijing.
Governments of various levels have carried out emergency measures to guard against Lekima and minimize or prevent damage brought about by strong gusts and heavy downpours.
The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters on Friday required all affected regions and related authorities to strengthen risk assessment, relocate people living in at-risk areas and guard against possible disasters including floods.
Che Jun, Zhejiang's Party secretary, said on Friday that fighting Typhoon Lekima has "entered the most critical stage". He urged all Party and government authorities to take "thorough and detailed" measures to evacuate and protect fishermen in coastal regions.
The Shanghai Meteorological Bureau also upgraded its typhoon alert from blue to yellow on Friday afternoon. Authorities were busy securing outdoor facilities such as billboards and lighting structures on Friday to reduce the risk of damage.
Local governments have made plans for evacuations and about 50 temporary shelters have been set up in Shanghai's coastal Jinshan district in case they are needed.
Traffic has been severely impacted. Railways from Beijing to some eastern destinations such as Zhejiang's Ningbo, Taizhou, Shaoxing, Wenzhou and Hangzhou, as well as Fuzhou, Fujian and Nanjing, Jiangsu, will be suspended from Saturday to Sunday, Beijing South Railway Station announced on Friday.
Some railway sections in the Yangtze River Delta region will also be suspended over the weekend, according to Shanghai railway authorities.
At Wenzhou's airport, 164 flights were canceled by Friday noon. All ferry services to tourist attractions were suspended in the province, according to Zhejiang authorities.