Taiwan is bracing for a direct hit by Typhoon Soulik early tomorrow, prompting precautionary evacuations due to the risk of landslides, and airlines predicting high winds that would disrupt flights.
Soulik may make landfall in northeastern Yilan or eastern Hualien county early morning tomorrow and bring cumulative rain of as much as 1,000 millimeters (39 inches) in the island’s northern and central mountains today and tomorrow, the Central Weather Bureau said. President Ma Ying-jeou called on local governments and citizens to make preparations and be on alert for mudslides, according to a statement from his office today.
Damage from Taiwan’s first typhoon of the year may be exacerbated by loose soil following large earthquakes in March and June, the Central Emergency Operations Center said in a statement. The bureau tracked eight typhoons last year including Saola, which killed seven people and destroyed NT$1.2 billion ($40 million) of agricultural produce. Morakot in 2009 killed more than 600 people and brought record rainfall.
A township in Yilan Country in northeastern Taiwan will evacuate 330 people from their homes at 4 p.m. ahead of the storm due to frequent mudslides in heavy rain, the Central News Agency reported.
The government announced schools and offices would close after 2 p.m. today. Banks will be open until 3:30 p.m. as usual, according to the Financial Supervisory Commission
Taiwan authorities issued a land warning and advised people to avoid outdoor activities as Typhoon Soulik continues its approach from the east. China’s National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center raised a wave warning to orange, the second- highest of four levels, in the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and waters near Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, Xinhua reported.
With wind gusts of as fast as 209 kilometers (130 miles) per hour, the eye of the storm was about 420 kilometers [262 miles] east- southeast off Yilan county in Taiwan’s northeast at 11 a.m. local time today, the weather bureau said in a statement on its website. The storm was heading west-northwest at 23 kilometers per hour [14.38 mph], it said. Torrential rains and mudslides may occur, the weather bureau said.
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. canceled 14 flights between Hong Kong and Taipei from 9 p.m. today to 2 p.m. tomorrow, according to a statement today. The airline will waive rebooking and rerouting charges for people affected. Taiwan’s largest carrier China Airlines Ltd. canceled 12 flights scheduled for today, according to a statement on its website.
A total of 46 inbound and outbound flights from northern Taiwan had been canceled as of 10:30 a.m., according to a statement from Taoyuan International Airport Corp. Ltd.
An average of seven typhoons are monitored by Taiwan authorities every year, with the greatest frequency between the months of July and September, according to bureau data. The most recent was Super Typhoon Jelawat, which sparked a sea warning in September before injuring 20 people and grounding flights in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.
–With assistance from Adela Lin and Debra Mao in Taipei and Jim Jia in New York.
Editors: Greg Ahlstrand, Debra Mao
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