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Typhoon Neoguri hits Chinas Hainan
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    GUANGZHOU, China — Typhoon Neoguri weakened into a tropical storm Friday after hitting China’s southern island province of Hainan, where 120,000 people fled low-lying areas and thousands more were stranded at an airport, state-run media reported.
    The typhoon — the first to threaten China this year — began lashing the city of Wenchang on Hainan’s northeast coast late Friday night. Xinhua News Agency reported it blacked out the city but   Neoguri, which means ‘‘raccoon’’ in Korean, had been packing winds of 75 mph before weakening to tropical storm strength at 67 mph.
    About 3,000 passengers were stranded at the airport in the provincial capital, Haikou, after 76 flights were canceled because of Neoguri, the report said.
    There was still no word about the 56 fishermen reported missing Friday after seeking refuge on a reef off Hainan’s coast. As the storm approached Hainan, officials ordered 21,800 fishing boats to seek safe places, Xinhua said.
    Hainan is famous for its beaches, resorts, orchards and fishing industry.
    The last time China faced a typhoon so early in the season was before 1949, Chen Lei, a flood relief official, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
    Strong gales caused the cancellation of ferries across the Qiongzhou Strait between Hainan and Guangdong early Friday, the agency reported.
    About 120,000 people fled fish farms and low-lying areas in Hainan, Xinhua said. Officials urged people in the southern provinces of Fujian and Guangxi to also prepare for the typhoon, expected to dump heavy rain.
    China was planning to hold the country’s first Ironman triathlon Sunday in Haikou, and organizers said the race was still on.