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Lekima kills dozens and displaces millions in eastern China

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
August 13, 2019, 5:36:24 AM EDT

Dozens of deaths and injuries lay in the wake of Lekima's destruction after the typhoon struck eastern China on Saturday morning.

The intense flooding and threat of landslides prompted over a million people to leave their homes.

With the strength equivalent to a powerful Category 3 hurricane, the powerful typhoon barreled onshore near Shitangzhen, in the province of Zhejiang, around 1:45 a.m. local time Saturday (1:45 p.m. EDT Friday).

At least 48 people have been killed in eastern China as of Monday evening, according to China Daily.

Many lives were lost in a tragic landslide, triggered by Lekima, in a village in Zhejiang's Yongjia County. After a landslide initially blocked a river, water built up and then broke through the earthen dam. The roughly 120 people in the village did not have time to safely evacuate before the floodwaters swept downstream.

China typhoon Aug 10

Cars are damaged after Typhoon Lekima made landfall in Wenling, Zhejiang province, China, on August 10, 2019. (Wang Gang/CNS via REUTERS)

Officials told China Global Television Network (CGTN) that the water level rose up to 10 meters (nearly 33 feet) within 10 minutes.

In the aftermath of the storm, Shandong authorities estimated that the typhoon caused direct economic losses of 1.5 billion yuan ($212 million). Much of that loss is due to the destruction of crops.

In anticipation of Lekima's landfall, the Chinese weather bureau issued a red alert on Friday morning, warning residents of the threat for strong winds, heavy rainfall and coastal impacts. The country has a four-stage color-coded warning system, with red representing the most severe weather.

More than one million people in eastern China evacuated ahead of the typhoon. That included about 250,000 residents in Shanghai and another 800,000 in neighboring Zhejiang, according to BBC News.

The typhoon's powerful winds caused an estimated 2.7 million homes in the area to lose power.

Lekima prompted officials to close Shanghai Disneyland on Saturday, Xinhua reported. That is the first time the park has shut down due to weather since opening in June 2016.

Winds at the Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport gusted to 55 mph (89 km/h) on Saturday, which forced the cancellation of thousands of flights across the region, according to FlightAware, including nearly 2,000 from the two major airports in Shanghai on Saturday.

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Lekima weakened into a tropical storm as it tracked northward across eastern China into Tuesday.

However, residents across northeast China should not let their guard down as flooding rain will continue to spread northward along the coast through Tuesday.

"The heaviest rain is expected to extend from northern Shandong into far eastern Hebei and Liaoning," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty. "In these areas, there can be widespread rainfall totals of 6 inches (150 mm) with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 12 inches (300 mm)."

New incidents of widespread flooding and some mudslides can occur. Widespread wind damage is no longer expected as Lekima continues to weaken.

lekima aug13

"River flooding could last for days after the rain ends as water slowly drains to the ocean," Douty added.

The worst conditions passed Beijing to the east, with some showers briefly dampening the city on Monday and Monday night.

Prior to reaching China, Lekima was briefly a super typhoon at midweek while mainly over open water, igniting dangerous seas from northern Luzon to Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands. Rain and winds over the Sakashima Islands began increasing on Thursday, bringing winds up to 74 mph (119 km/h) as of Thursday evening.

Northern parts of Taiwan were the next to feel the wrath of Lekima as typhoon passed just north and east of the island. Dangerous seas prompted extreme sea warnings by officials while rounds of heavy tropical rain washed over the northern parts of the island.

Wind speeds topped 120 mph (190 km/h), leaving more than 40,000 people without power on the island; travel difficulties, even as Lekima pulled away, prompted canceled flights and school closures at the end of the week, according to Reuters.

On the heels of Lekima, Krosa is aiming at western Japan with flooding rain and damaging wind dangers.

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