Taiwan battens down for Typhoon Matmo
YILAN, Taiwan - Typhoon Matmo churned towards Taiwan Tuesday, picking up strength with thousands of tourists evacuated from outlying islands as weather forecasters warned of possible flash floods and landslides.
Matmo, packing gusts of up to 173 kilometers per hour (107mph), is the first tropical storm to hit the island this year and is expected to make landfall on the eastern coast near the city of Hualien early Wednesday, the Central Weather Bureau said.
The storm will hit further south than previously thought and is set to bring heavy rain to most of the country.
"Currently on waters south of Hualien, the typhoon is approaching Taiwan and threatening the whole island," an official at the bureau said.
At 1300 GMT, the typhoon was about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Hualien city and moving northwest.
"From now on until tomorrow, mountainous areas in the north and east are forecast to receive severe rainfall" of up to one meter, the official said.
"People living in mountainous areas ought to take precautions against possible landslides, and as flash flooding may happen people should stay away from low-lying areas."
Residents were also urged to tie down commercial signs and construction scaffolds.
Financial markets will be closed Wednesday with some government offices and schools also shutting down for the day.
Around 5,400 tourists were evacuated from Green Island and Orchid Island, two popular scenic spots off the southeastern Taitung county, earlier Tuesday.
The local government said shipping services between the two islets and Taitung had been suspended from Tuesday for three days.
Several ports were packed with hundreds of fishing vessels that returned from sea following the typhoon alert.
Television images showed a huge crane lifting a giant inflatable rubber duck from a lake in Hualien county where it had been on display.
In 2009 Morakot, the worst storm to hit Taiwan in half a century, left more than 600 dead, including 400 people from Kaohsiung who were buried by mudslides triggered by torrential rains.
The disaster plunged President Ma Ying-jeou into his worst political crisis since taking office in May 2008, amid widespread public criticism that his government's response was late and inefficient.
Typhoon Soulik battered Taiwan with torrential rain and powerful winds last year, leaving two people dead and at least 100 injured. - Rappler.com