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Natural disasters

China braces for typhoon as Yangtze floodwaters remain high

Meteorological office issues yellow alert for Shanghai and nearby provinces

Since June the Three Gorges Dam has been called on to hold back floodwaters from downstream cities like Wuhan. (Imaginechina via AP Images)   © AP

SHANGHAI -- China, where torrential rains since June have raised the water of major rivers well above safe levels, is now bracing for Typhoon Hagupit, which is expected to slam a swath of the east coast tonight.

The National Meteorological Center has issued a yellow alert, the second-lowest on a four-color scale. The move requires authorities in Shanghai and neighboring provinces such as Zhejiang and Anhui to go into crisis management mode.

Hagupit will be the fourth typhoon to reach China this year. It is packing maximum wind speeds of 72 kph at its center.

The meteorological center is also warning that two to three typhoons will hit in August. The average for this month is 1.9 typhoons, going back to the country's founding in 1949.

Elsewhere, China remains on high alert due to two months of downpours that have inundated cities along the Yangtze and Huaihe rivers. The Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower plant, along the Yangtze, has been put to the test as it deals with the worst flooding to hit China since 1998.

The dam was completed in 2003.

As a precaution, authorities in the southern city of Sanya on Saturday closed all tourist spots. In Fujian Province's coastal cities, all fishing activities are halted as of today.

Fujian, across the strait from Taiwan, is not in Hagupit's path.

The government on Saturday called for "all-out efforts" to mitigate flooding and aid post-disaster recovery, acknowledging risks from high water levels in rivers and lakes, and behind dams.

The flooding is affecting 55 million people in 27 of China's 31 provinces. At least 158 people had died or gone missing as of July 28, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management. Direct economic losses were at 144 billion yuan ($20.6 billion), 14% higher than the five-year average.

Even so, the short-term impact will be moderate and not slow the nation's growth momentum, Haitong Securities said in a research note on Wednesday.

Pictet Wealth Management in Hong Kong on Thursday raised China's growth forecast for 2020 to 1.8%, from 1.2%, citing a "strong rebound" in industrial activities fueled by domestic demand.

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