Hundreds of residents in eastern and central Taiwan were forced to evacuate yesterday as Typhoon Soulik approached the nation, bringing torrential rain and strong winds.
By 8:30pm yesterday, Soulik’s center was approximately 230km off the southeast coast of Yilan. It was moving northwest at 23kph. The radius of the storm remained at 280km. The maximum wind speed was 163kph.
The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said the typhoon has gradually approached the nation’s northern and northeastern regions. It estimated the typhoon was likely to make landfall in Yilan early this morning and would gradually weaken.
Waves as high as 1.5m were pounding the shores of Yilan yesterday afternoon as the coast guard patrolled the beach to warn visitors to stay away, while hundreds of fishing boats sought safe harbor.
The bureau estimated that the aggregate rainfall in the mountainous areas in Hsinchu, Miaoli, Nantou and Chiayi counties could top 1,000mm.
The rainfall in the mountains of Greater Taichung and Yilan County could reach 900mm, it added.
Residents in mountainous areas of Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市), Taoyuan County, Yunlin and Greater Kaohsiung could see rainfall of about 800mm.
At press time, with the exception of Kinmen County, cities and counties nationwide had declared today a typhoon day, canceling work and classes.
The Directorate-General of Highways had started preventive closures of highways yesterday afternoon, including Highway Nos. 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 16, 21 and 23.
The National Freeway Bureau also closed the Wugu-Yangmei overpass at 11pm yesterday. Several toll booths along freeways stopped collecting toll fees.
All Taiwan Railway Administration express train services leaving before 12pm today would be canceled. The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp, on the other hand, would cancel all trains leaving before 3pm today.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration said 250 domestic and international flights were affected by the approaching typhoon yesterday, with the majority of them being canceled.
Domestic carriers, including Uni Air (立榮航空), TransAsia Airways (復興航空), Mandarin Airlines (華信航空) and Far Eastern Air Transport (遠東航空), announced the cancelation of domestic flights scheduled to leave before 12pm today.
EVA Airways (長榮航空) and Uni Air said international flights would continue normal operations today.
China Airlines (中華航空), on the other hand, said it would cancel or postpone flights scheduled to take off before 11am today.
Travelers or those needing to pick up people at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport today are advised to check with airlines before leaving.
All shipping services to the outlying islands have been canceled since yesterday.
The Central Emergency Operation Center said that more than 50,000 military personnel are ready to assist in emergencies.
Meanwhile, the joint announcement mechanism on work and class cancelation in Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung came under fire yesterday, as many residents complained about the late announcement that work and classes would be canceled from 2pm.
Travelers also complained about traffic congestion on major roads and overcrowding at MRT stations.
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the decision was made based on the CWB’s weather forecast, which said winds and rains would be heavier after 5pm.
“Canceling work and class at 2pm will give residents more time to get to their destinations safely. We also don’t want to affect the stock market, which closes at 1:30pm,” said Hau, who returned to Taipei from Russia earlier yesterday afternoon.
The Taipei Rapid Transit Corp said it had dispatched five additional MRT trains between 2pm and 4pm yesterday to transport commuters who were heading home. The ridership during the period exceeded 1 million, which is 96,000 more than the average.
Hau reminded employers to take extra cautions and not to break labor laws by requiring delivery employees to work in gusty winds and heavy rain.
The Labor Standards Inspection Office said that if a delivery person incurs serious injuries at work, employers face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$150,000 (US$5,000).
As Typhoon Soulik is expected to bring huge amounts of rain, the Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration has started discharging water at 300m2 per hour. It urged residents along the Sindian River (新店溪) and Tamsui River (淡水河) to stay away from low-lying areas.
Additional reporting by Mo Yan-chih and AFP