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Utor weakens as it makes landfall but rain a threat

Spectators watch waves crash on the breakwater as the tail end of tropical storm Utor passes Taiwan  

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Utor made landfall Friday morning near the Chinese city of Shanwei and threatened to bring heavy flooding across the region, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center said.

Authorities are urging area residents to take precautions.

The storm's wind speed was about 65 kilometers per hour (39 mph), according to the Hong Kong Observatory. At 9 a.m., Utor's center was estimated to be about 110 kilometers (65 miles) northeast of Hong Kong, and was moving inland northwest at about 20 kilometers per hour (12 mph), the observatory said. Tides were running about 1 meter (3 feet) above normal.

Though weakened, Utor remains one of the largest storms to hit this part of the world in years. Its effects are being felt simultaneously in the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

The major threat continues to be heavy, persistent rain over the rugged terrain and the fact that the system has slowed, the center said.

Meteorologists warned of the threat of urban flooding, coastal flooding and flash flooding. Mudslides also are possible.

Officials in the region have issued sea and land storm warnings, fishing vessels were seeking refuge in shelters, and several airlines have canceled flights into Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport, including China Airlines and Korean Air.

IN-DEPTH: Typhoon watch-  the latest on Typhoon Utor

Tropical storm-force winds extended 80 miles from the center, and Utor was expected to continue to weaken. As it hits land, it is expected to lose strength in the region's rugged terrain, but its slow movement and heavy rainfall still poses a major threat to the region.

Bands of heavy rain were continuing to sweep across Luzon, the northernmost main island in the Philippines; southern Taiwan; and southeastern China.

Transportation and communications were disrupted in Taiwan, though the island was spared the full force of the storm.

Utor means "squall" in the language spoken on the Marshall Islands, and is one of a series of regional names chosen to label typhoons in the West Pacific region.


Rescuers pull a man from the mud after a landslide in the Philippines on Wednesday
Rescuers pull a man from the mud after a landslide in the Philippines on Wednesday  

The storm left behind a trail of devastation in the Philippines, where at least 40 people were killed -- most by floods and mudslides -- and at least 16 were listed as missing.

More than 25,000 people were forced out of their homes, the northern Regional Disaster Management Center said.

Despite only brushing past Taiwan, one Taiwanese was killed and rescuers are searching for more than 50 fishermen and hikers reported missing.

Heavy rain flooded houses and farms, forcing government offices and schools in six provinces to close.

Flooding in Vietnam

Separately, in Vietnam, 22 people were killed in flooding related to Typhoon Durian, which hit the region days earlier.

Up to 17 inches of rain fell between Monday and Wednesday, submerging large areas of some northern provinces, the National Weather Forecast Center said.

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