Haitang fizzles out, leaves Taiwan wet

DECREASING STRENGTH: Although the storm became weaker than was originally expected, the weather bureau warned that Taiwan was not out of the woods just yet

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 1

Typhoon Haitang, which brought tremendous rainfall and caused dozens of casualties in Taiwan, yesterday was downgraded into a less-devastating tropical storm. However, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) reminded people of the danger of potential flooding, because torrential rainfall is expected to continue over the next few days.

The strength of Haitang began decreasing after it made landafall in Taiwan late Sunday. Yesterday, it was classified as a tropical storm before it departed Taiwan on its way to China. However, forecasters said that people in Taiwan should still be vigilant for heavy rains.

As of yesterday, the bureau's statistics said that since Sunday, cumulative rainfall exceeding 1,000mm had been measured in many places in Taiwan. In the south, Pingtung County's Sandimen Township (三地門) experienced rainfall of 1,561mm. Two major bridges connecting mountain villages in the township with the outside were seriously damaged and have been closed.

In Kaohsiung County, yesterday's torrential rains boosted cumulative rainfall to 1,384mm. In Ilan, many areas experienced rainfall exceeding 1,000mm. Forecasters said that peripheral air currents surrounding Haitang would bring heavy rain to Taiwan, and people must be alert over the following days.

According to George Lu (呂國臣), a division chief at the bureau's Weather Forecast Center, torrential rains will continue today in the central, southern, and southeastern parts of the country.

"Residents should avoid carrying out activities in mountains and on the beaches. Heavy rains might trigger mudflows, landslides and floods in mountainous areas," Lu said.

Because of up-to-date rainfall statistics, the number of watercourses in "critical danger" of flooding has been increased from 185 to 553 yesterday by the Council of Agriculture (COA). Meanwhile, 867 watercourses have also been identified as having the potential danger of flooding.

The council said yesterday that Haitang had caused NT$1.32 billion (US$41.4 million) in financial losses in the agricultural sector. Many crops have been ruined. Farmers in the most seriously affected counties, including Miaoli, Kaohsiung, Hualien and Taitung, will be entitled to compensation through financial aid for their losses.

The passage of Haitang has also increased the turbidity of river water. The Taiwan Water Supply Corporation (TWSC) said yesterday that water restrictions in some communities in southern Taoyuan County will be solved within days. Due to the turbidity, a single water treatment plant in the county can only treat 400,000 tonnes of water a day, rather than 600,000 tonnes as is usual. However, TWSC officials said that trucks carrying potable water would remain available for affected people at all times.

Meanwhile, Japanese water experts have been invited by TWSC to check the functioning of the Shihmen Dam (石門水庫), a major reservoir in the north of the county, because some water intakes malfunctioned after Haitang hit Taiwan. To make sure water reserves in the reservoir are available, engineers for the Water Resources Agency have been working on the establishment of pumps as alternatives.

Meanwhile, the center of the typhoon landed in China near Lianjiang County, Fujian Province just after 5pm yesterday, an official at the provincial disaster relief bureau said by telephone.

At least 850,000 people were evacuated from vulnerable areas of Fujian and Zhejiang provinces since Sunday, other state media said.

In Zhejiang's Wenzhou City, water was already filling the streets as winds of up to force 12 battered buildings, the radio report said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The national meteorological office forecast that the typhoon would move northwest overnight.

Chinese authorities have been on high alert after learning lessons last year when Typhoon Rananim devastated the area, killing at least 164 people.

Frantic round-the-clock preparations that began on Monday have seen volunteers and 5,000 of the People's Armed Police mobilized to evacuate people to higher ground, reports said.

also see story:

Ma, Hsieh battle over typhoon