Tembin causes extreme flooding

RAINFALL RECORD::A total of 167.55mm of rain fell on the Hengchun Peninsula in an hour yesterday morning, causing the worst flooding in the region in a century

By Shelley Shan and Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporters

Sat, Aug 25, 2012 - Page 1

Torrential rain brought by Typhoon Tembin yesterday led to the worst flooding in the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) in the past 100 years, toppling trees, ripping off rooftops and causing power shortages for more than 30,000 households in the area.

Tembin made landfall at Mudan Township (牡丹) in Pintung County at 5am yesterday and moved out to sea at 7:30am via the county’s Fangshan Township (枋山).

As of 7:15pm yesterday, the center of Tembin was 230km southwest of Greater Taichung. It was moving southwest at 6kph.

Central Weather Bureau forecaster Chen Yi-liang (陳怡良) said the bureau’s observation station in Hengchun reported that 167.55mm of rain had poured onto Hengchun between 7am and 8am yesterday, which set a new record for hourly rainfall since the establishment of the observation station in 1896.

By 2pm yesterday, the accumulated rainfall in Hengchun had already reached 566mm. Chen said that it had exceeded the previous record for one-day rainfall set in 1943, which topped 484.4mm.

Chen said that the bureau could potentially lift the land warning for Taiwan proper today, should the speed and the direction of Tembin remain unchanged.

He said that Tembin had already been downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm after its structure was weakened by passing over land. While it was moving slowly in a southwesterly direction, the bureau noted that Tembin was twirling around the same spot and its structure was reforming.

While the rain might ease, Chen said chances for extremely heavy rain to torrential rain are high in the Hengchun Peninsula, as well as mountainous areas in southeastern and southern regions.

The rest of the nation would be affected by the circumfluence of Tembin, which would increase the chances of heavy rain to extremely heavy rain, he added.

The bureau forecast that Tembin would slow down today. It would gradually move toward the area surrounding the south of the Taiwan Strait, the Bashi Channel and the Dongsha Islands (東沙群島), and would stick around the area for one to two days.

After that, Tembin would be attracted by Typhoon Bolaven and move eastward and further north, close to the East Coast, the bureau said.

“We estimate that Tembin will come close to eastern Taiwan on Monday,” Chen said, adding that whether the storm would make landfall again remains to be seen.

Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源), who doubles as commander of the Central Emergency Operation Center, urged the nation to stay alert while Typhoon Tembin lingers close to the country.

“It may seem alright where you live, but I urge everyone to stay alert and be very cautious, as Typhoon Tembin may stay around the country for one or two more days, according to forecasts released by the Central Weather Bureau,” Lee said.

Television news showed furniture in the houses of Pingtung residents immersed in water. Workers at Heng Chun Christian Hospital were busy salvaging the medical equipment and records of patients that were undamaged by the flooding.

A number of tour buses at a parking lot were flipped on their sides by the strong winds.

A man running a steam-bun store in Hengchun estimated it would take at least two weeks to a month before he could resume his business.

“It [the rain] hardly gave you time to react,” the man was seen as saying in a TV news clip. “We have not seen such a massive amount of rain in such a short period of time in many years.”

The Central Emergency Operation Center said five people were injured in disasters caused by the typhoon.

In Greater Kaohsiung, a firefighter was electrocuted while handling a power cable ripped off by powerful winds, receiving burns so serious that his right foot may need to be amputated, the center said, adding that three other people were injured by broken glass in Greater Taitung.

As the storm bore down, police set up roadblocks in several locations leading to areas considered in danger of landslides, only letting through those on urgent business.

Nationwide, the number of evacuees topped 7,000, the center said, adding that 24,463 households — mostly in Hualien and Taitung counties — suffered from power outages, while there was one case of a road collapse on Provincial Highway No.4 in Taoyuan County and another collapse on County Highway No.58 in Yilan County.

In addition, 18 road sections that could potentially collapse around the country have been closed as a preventive measure, the center said in a statement.

Hualien, Taitung, and Pingtung counties have been listed as flooding — or potential flooding — areas and water pumps have been delivered to those areas, the statement said.

Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) yesterday demanded Lee set up an on-the-spot operation center in Pingtung County to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

The operation center was to be led by Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎), who yesterday traveled to the southern county along with other officials.

Defense officials were also stationed at the operation center in Pingtung. They were leading about 1,500 military personnel in rescue operations in the hope that they would help bring about the earliest possible recovery of the affected areas, the Executive Yuan said.

Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan and AFP