Fri, Jul 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Tropical Storm Bilis batters Taiwan, disrupts travel

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

A man on a bicycle tries in vain to shield himself from the rain with an umbrella as Taipei felt the first wind and rain brought by Tropical Storm Bilis yesterday.

PHOTO: WANG CHUN-FONG, TAIPEI TIMES

Tropical Storm Bilis pounded the country yesterday, forcing schools and offices to close and disrupting air and rail traffic.

The Central Weather Bureau forecast that Bilis will have completed its sweep across the country and be approximately 60km northwest of Hsinchu County by 8am this morning.

Bureau spokesman Wu De-rong (吳德榮) yesterday said the structure of Bilis was "loose" and it was therefore unlikely to increase in intensity as it made landfall.

Because of its weak structure, the amount of rain and the storm's wind speed did not evidently increase after making landfall, Wu said.

However, the bureau warned of heavy rainfall today and tomorrow due to the lingering results of the storm and said that rainfall in mountainous southern areas may exceed 1,000mm.

The bureau also urged the public to take precautionary measures against heavy rain, landslides and floods, and warned against engaging in activities in coastal areas.

Flights from Taiwan to the outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu were canceled yesterday and as of press time it was still unclear whether flights would resume today.

A total of 487 geological lines that are potential mudslide risks had been identified around the nation as Bilis swept across Taiwan, officials from the Central Disaster Response Center (CDRC) reported yesterday.

The center reported that as of 4pm, a total of 4,272 Chinese fishermen had been allowed to take temporary shelter at fishing ports around Taiwan.

Power outages had been reported in 25 places, all in Taitung County, while 27 mobile phone base stations islandwide had been damaged because of torrential rain.

An accident was reported in Ilan County in which a large truck spun out of control and hit a residential building, knocking down power lines. No injuries were reported.

In Taipei City yesterday, cars were allowed to park on yellow and red lines along the curb. However, because of the closing of flood gates in Taipei City and County, many cars were parked on overpasses, causing traffic jams.

Meanwhile, vegetable prices continued to climb, with the wholesale price of scallions (green onions) reaching roughly NT$215 (US$6.72) per kilogram from NT$150 on Wednesday.

The Council of Agriculture announced yesterday that the average retail price for vegetables was NT$35.15, a notable increase from NT$29.7 on Wednesday.

However, the council urged the public not to hoard vegetables at this time, because the effect of the typhoon would only be temporary.

Meanwhile the defense ministry announced that rehearsals for the annual Hankuang 22 military exercises scheduled for today in Ilan are to be postponed. The ministry said the decision was made for the safety of soldiers who will take part in the drill.

No casualties or injuries had been reported as of press time.

Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said he would punish government officials who did not do their best to help avoid potential disasters caused by Tropical Storm Bilis.

Su began his working day yesterday morning at 8am by arriving at the disaster-response headquarters that had been established to deal with the tropical storm.

Su also confirmed Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) decision to cut his trip to Japan by one day in order to return to Taipei to oversee the city's response to the tropical storm.

Additional reporting by Jimmy Chuang

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