One dead, 31 injured as Typhoon Soulik hits Taiwan

More heavy rain and strong winds are predicted throughout Saturday with warning of further landslides and flooding.


Afp July 13, 2013
A frontier soldier helps a man move away from waves ahead of Typhoon Soulik in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, July 13, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI: Typhoon Soulik battered Taiwan with torrential rain and powerful winds on Saturday that left one person dead and at least 30 injured.

Roofs were ripped from homes, debris and fallen trees littered the streets and some areas were submerged by flood waters.

One town in central Taiwan reported "widespread" landslides and water levels a storey high.

More heavy rain and strong winds are predicted throughout Saturday with the authorities warning of further landslides and flooding.

Around 8,000 people were evacuated from their homes before the typhoon struck, with hundreds of soldiers deployed to high-risk areas and the whole island declared an "alert zone" by the authorities.

In the capital Taipei, a 50-year-old police officer died after being hit by bricks that came loose during the typhoon, the Central Emergency Operation Centre said.

Three people were left seriously injured with 31 reported hurt across the island, most injured by trees or flying debris.

Soulik made landfall on the northeast coast around 03:00 am Saturday, packing winds of up to 190 kilometres an hour (118 miles), the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) said.

"Heavy rains are expected throughout the day, especially in the mountainous areas in the centre and south," a weather forecaster from the bureau told AFP.

Strong winds were also predicted, he said, but added that the CWB was likely to lift the current land warning at 5:00 pm as the threat from the typhoon diminishes and it churns towards mainland China.

Nine people were rescued from flooded homes in the Shiangshan area of Puli, a town in central Nantou county, which was also hit by landslides.

"The water came very fast, catching residents totally unprepared – in some areas, it was one-storey deep," township official Wu Yuan-ming told AFP.

The nine caught in the flood waters were rescued by firefighters in rubber boats after the river broke its banks, Wu said.

"Flooding and landslides were widespread in the town, especially in the areas near mountains," he added, calling the effects of the typhoon "more serious than we predicted".

Landslides reached the backyards of residents' homes but they had already evacuated, Wu said, adding that the ground may have been loosened by an earthquake last month.

A major landslide on a mountain road leading to Taian, a central town famous for its hot spring resorts, was also reported by local media.

The northern village of Bailan saw the heaviest rain, measuring 900 millimetres (35 inches) over the past two days, with winds gusting up to 220 kilometres per hour.

Streets were submerged under 30 centimetres of seawater in the port city of Keelung, the National Fire Agency said, with flooding also reported in the coastal area of Yilan and in New Taipei City, the area surrounding the capital.

Low-lying houses along the Hsintien River through greater Taipei were flooded, including one aboriginal village from which residents had been evacuated Friday, a police officer told AFP.

Local television showed roofs ripped from homes in northern Keelung and in Taipei, where 120 kilometre-per-hour winds and downpours disrupted power, uprooted trees and left the streets strewn with rubbish.

"I was very worried, I couldn't sleep the whole night because the sound of the wind was so loud and my building was shaking almost like there was an earthquake," Taipei resident Josephine Lin told AFP.

Across Taiwan, electricity supplies in nearly 800,000 homes were down but half had been restored by Saturday afternoon, according to the Taiwan Power Company.

Around 170 flights into and out of Taiwan were cancelled or delayed, while offices and schools remained closed, with the public advised to stay indoors.

In August 2009, Typhoon Morakot killed about 600 people in Taiwan, most of them buried in huge landslides in the south, in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the island in recent years.

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