Typhoon Saola pounded the nation with fierce winds and torrential rain yesterday, leaving five people dead, two missing and 16 injured.
According to information from the Central Emergency Operation Center, as of press time, one man in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Sansia Township (三峽) was buried in a mudslide, the 50-year-old director of New Taipei City’s Zuntou Police Station, Wang Ming-hsiang (王明祥), died of a heart attack while patroling landslide-prone areas; a motorcyclist was killed after he crashed into a toppled tree in Chiayi County; and a couple were buried by mudslides on their farm in Yilan, the center said.
In Taipei, more than 700 people living in old communities or hillsides were evacuated due to flooding and landslides that caused damage in Wenshan (文山), Beitou (北投) and Shilin (士林) districts.
Severe flooding was also reported in Yilan County, New Taipei City and Taoyuan County. Approximately 6,700 households in New Taipei City, Hsinchu, Nantou, Changhua and Yilan were left without water.
The Ministry of National Defense, which had ordered more than 45,000 soldiers to be on stand-by, mobilized amphibious vehicles to rescue residents trapped in chest-deep water in Yilan County. Television news footage showed residents in Yilan’s Wujie Township (五結) wading through the floodwater, which at one point rose to their chests.
The Central Emergency Operation Center estimated that more than 6,000 residents in 14 cities and counties were evacuated, 2,800 of whom stayed in temporary shelters. Electricity to more than 177,000 households nationwide was cut at one point.
Media reports also showed hectares of flooded farmland in low-lying coastal areas and scenes of overflowing rivers and roads blocked by mudslides in the nation’s mountainous center.
The transportation system was also disrupted by the stormy weather. The air bridge at the D10 boarding gate at Terminal Two of Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport was knocked down by gusts of wind. Nobody was injured in the incident. The D8 boarding gate was also damaged when the axle of supporting wheels under the air bridge broke.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration said 206 domestic flights and 103 international flights were either delayed or canceled because of the storm as of 5pm yesterday.
The Taiwan Railway Administration canceled all of its express train services on both the east coast and west coast routes, while the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp adjusted its services as well.
Photographs taken from a rescue helicopter showed that landslides occurred in more than two dozen sections along the Suhua Highway, one of the main passages connecting eastern and western Taiwan.
Information from the Central Weather Bureau showed Saola made landfall at Hualien County at 3:20am yesterday. The storm twirled on the spot and veered off the coast again.
At around 2pm, Saola was downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm after its structure was partially altered by its contact with land. It then made landfall again at Sandiaojiao (三貂角). As of 7:30pm, the center of Saola was 60km north of Taipei, moving northwest at 16kph.
Bureau forecaster Hsieh Ming-chang (謝明昌) said that Taiwan proper could be out of the storm’s reach by noon today if Saola continues on the same course at the same speed.
“The rain could ease nationwide after the storm moves away today,” he added.