BEIJING — Super typhoon Rammasun, one of the strongest storms ever to hit China's coast, roared into southern China Friday afternoon, killing at least one person and packing winds of up to 134 miles per hour.
After causing havoc, widespread damage and at least 38 deaths in the Philippines earlier this week, Rammasun gathered strength as it crossed the South China Sea. It was upgraded early Friday from typhoon to super typhoon status.
Named after the Thai word for "thunder god," Rammasun made landfall local time in Wenchang City on the northeastern coast of Hainan — south China's tropical island province.
The mayor of Wenchang, Liu Chunmei, told the state news agency Xinhua that many houses have been damaged. He said a local man died after being hit by falling debris as his house collapsed. Over 70,000 residents near the landfall region were evacuated.
The man who died had returned home after the emergency evacuation order, said Liu. The Hainan Daily newspaper said he was 60 years old, and surnamed Gao.
Hainan shut all its airports, ports, train and bus stations Friday, and suspended ferry, train and bus services, Xinhua reported. Fishermen were ordered back to port and kindergartens closed. The island, a popular tourist destination sometimes promoted as "China's Hawaii," also ordered all tourist resorts to close.
Meteorological authorities had warned that Rammasun would be the strongest storm in 40 years to hit Hainan. Ahead of the storm, authorities on Thursday issued China's first red alert this year, the most severe of the nation's four-tier, color-coded weather warning system.
On the nearby mainland, the typhoon will also affect southwestern Guangdong province and southeastern Guangxi province. The National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center forecast storm surges bringing waves of up to 20 feet in coastal Guangdong, said Xinhua.
Vietnam has already evacuated thousands of people from its northeastern coastal areas ahead of the typhoon's expected landfall there around 7 a.m. Saturday morning.
The typhoon follows heavy rains and landslides in China that have already killed at least 45 people, and injured 21 others, during the past week. Local governments have dispatched 66 working groups to 13 cities to supervise preparations for the typhoon, said Xinhua.
In Hainan's Wenchang, hotel owner Zhang Zhui heeded official advice and hoped for the best.
In recent days, Zhang, 28, evacuated his staff further inland and tied down all movable objects outside the beach-side Boat Story Inn he opened this January. "I am a little scared, it's the biggest one in 40 years," he said ahead of the storm. "But I am more worried about my new inn, that's the most important thing on my mind," said Zhang.
"I wish my losses could be as little as possible," he said.
Contributing: Sunny Yang