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People hold umbrellas as they walk against rain in Qionghai, Hainan province, July 18, 2014. (CHINA DAILY/REUTERS)
People hold umbrellas as they walk against rain in Qionghai, Hainan province, July 18, 2014. (CHINA DAILY/REUTERS)

Typhoon gathers fury as it approaches southern China Add to ...

A typhoon heading towards southern China has strengthened into a super typhoon, the government said on Friday, ordering an all-out effort to prevent loss of life from a storm that has already killed at least 54 people in the Philippines.

Typhoon Rammasun, which is packing winds of up to 180 kmph (112 mph), is expected to make landfall between the two Chinese provinces of Hainan and Guangdong on Friday afternoon, the National Meteorological Centre said on its website.

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The typhoon, which is shaping up as the strongest to hit China’s island of Hainan in 40 years, will also bring heavy rains before moving southwest, state news agency Xinhua said.

Waves could reach up to 13 metres (43 feet) high in northern parts of the South China Sea and residents are being warned away from coastal areas, the report said.

The Hainan government said it had ordered fishermen back to port while many flights, and all train services, were canceled.

State television said access to all scenic spots on the island, which styles itself as China’s answer to Hawaii, had been closed, and 30,000 people evacuated from low-lying coastal areas.

Premier Li Keqiang said people’s lives must come first in the severe situation, the Hainan government said.

“Prevent any accidents that may be caused (by the typhoon) and reduce disaster losses as much as possible,” it cited Li as saying.

After making landfall the typhoon will gradually weaken and head into the southwestern region of Guangxi, the National Meteorological Centre added.

Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength from the warm waters and dissipating over land.

Flooding across a large swathe of southern China in the past week has already killed at least 34 people.

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