BEIJING -- China issued its top warning for coastal areas of Zhejiang province Friday ahead of a strong typhoon carrying heavy rain and winds and expected to send an intense storm surge up the mighty Yangzte River.
Heavy rain was expected in Zhejiang, Shanghai and nearby provinces on Friday before Typhoon Lekima hits land on Saturday morning, then weakens as it moves north.
Parts of northern Taiwan closed offices and suspended classes at schools on Friday as the storm passed northeast of the island. The same area was hit by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake Thursday that caused minor damage but no deaths or injuries.
The red alert China issued is the most serious in its four-tired alert system, prompting authorities to prepare evacuations, suspend train and air travel and require vessels to return to port. In Zhejiang, ferry service had been cancelled and more than 200 tourists evacuated from popular Beiji island.
The National Meteorological Center said Lekima was gusting at 209 kph (130 mph) and traveling northwesterly at 13 kph (8 mph). Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau put its sustained winds at 173 kph (108 mph) and said the bands of wind and rains around the storm's eye were shrinking.
The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters warned authorities overseeing seven provinces including Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangsu and Shanghai Municipality to make preparations and have emergency response systems ready to be deployed. In Zhejiang, nearly 5,000 fishing boats had been recalled to port, authorities reported.
An intense storm surge was expected to raise waters in the estuary of the Yangzte River, China's mightiest, beginning Friday. Three main streams of the Yangzte River are likely to exceed alert levels and the commission overseeing the river for the Ministry of Water Resources has ordered efforts to prevent floods and oversaturation of levees along the river's banks.