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Typhoon Babs belts Taiwan and Hong Kong

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Typhoon Babs brought torrential rains and landslides to Taiwan and lashed Hong Kong with strong winds Sunday after killing at least 156 people in the Philippines and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The Hong Kong Observatory said that by Sunday evening, the typhoon was centered about 185 miles southeast of the territory with sustained winds of 81 mph. It was moving at about 6 mph toward the south China coast.Its outer fringes brought torrential rains to the whole island of Taiwan, with Hualien and several other eastern towns recording more than 20 inches of rain.

In Taipei, the main Keelung River swelled its banks and parts of suburban Hsichih and Wutu were flooded in waist-high water.

Nine people were injured when their van was hit by rockslides in eastern Taitung and a man was swept into the sea while fishing in northeastern Ilan province, police said.

Several domestic airports were closed, and landslides halted traffic and trapped hundreds of people in mountains in central Taiwan.

In Hong Kong, authorities warned residents to take precautions as gusts of 64 mph were recorded in some places. The government opened shelters for those seeking refuge from the storm.

Hong Kong beaches were ordered closed because of rough seas, and fishing boats sought shelter in the harbor.

In the Philippines, President Joseph Estrada has declared four provinces and a city in the worst hit area on the southern tip of Luzon island under a state of calamity.

The Philippine government's Office of Civil Defense said the death toll from Babs has risen to 156. The dead included 71 people killed in landslides in hard-hit Catanduanes island and 41 people who drowned, were electrocuted or died in landslides in nearby Camarines Sur province.