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Tourists evacuated from east China island as typhoon nears

Chinese soldiers helped to evacuate 900 foreign and Chinese tourists from Nanji, a resort island off east China's Zhejiang Province, before ferry services to the mainland stopped Thursday as Typhoon Morakot approached.

China's central observatory issued an orange alert, the second-highest-level alert, for Morakot Thursday morning, advising vessels to take shelter in ports or detour around the typhoon area. It also urged people in the path of the typhoon to shut doors and windows and avoid outdoor activities.

A tourist from Jinhua City, Zhejiang, told Xinhua that soldiers visited each tourist spot on Nanji to persuade people to leave on Wednesday.

"We didn't expect the typhoon would be so strong, and had planned to stay on the island for another two days. We are grateful that the soldiers helped us book ferry tickets and leave the island safely before Morakot arrives," he said.

The eye of Morakot was located at 710 kilometers southeast off Keelung city of Taiwan as of 5 a.m. Thursday, packing winds up to 144 kilometers per hour, according to the observatory.

It forecast Morakot would move northwestward at 20 to 25 kilometers per hour to northeastern coastal areas of Taiwan. The typhoon was expected to bring gales to eastern and northern coastal areas of Taiwan Thursday. Some regions in Taiwan would be hit by heavy rain or rain storm.

The Zhejiang provincial observatory expected Morakot to strengthen into a strong typhoon and to make landfall late Friday or Saturday.

The Shanghai-based East China Weather Forecast Center under the State Bureau of Oceanic Administration on Thursday warned coastal units to take high tide precautions, as Morakot would hit at a peak tide time, and the storm tide in Zhejiang and Fujian would surge 150 to 250cm on Saturday.

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2009)