Typhoon in Taiwan – thousands taken to safety

Henry

Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas in eastern Taiwan to safety on Sunday as Typhoon Haikui – the first tropical cyclone to hit the island in four years – crept closer.

Haikui, which already caused heavy rain on Sunday morning, is packing sustained winds of about 140 kilometers per hour, and is expected to hit Taitung in eastern Taiwan by 5:00 p.m. (0900 GMT).

Schools and offices in the southern and eastern parts of the island were closed on Sunday, and more than 200 domestic flights were cancelled.

“Haikui will be the first typhoon to make landfall in Taiwan in four years,” Tsai Ing-wen, the Taiwanese president, said on Sunday.

“I appeal to people to make preparations for the typhoon and be careful, stay at home as far as possible and avoid any dangerous activities.”

The typhoon was about 180 kilometers east of Taiwan just before 9 a.m., Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said at a media conference.

“It has become more powerful and will move west towards the Taiwan Strait by Monday,” said deputy director Fong Chin-tzu, warning the public to “remain vigilant”.

“The typhoon, which is accompanied by strong winds, heavy rain and large waves, is expected to pose a significant threat to most areas in Taiwan.”

The interior ministry said authorities had taken more than 2,800 people across seven cities in Taiwan to safety, the majority of them from the mountainous district of Hualien, which borders Taitung.

The streets of Hualien were deserted on Sunday morning due to incessant downpours and pitch black clouds hung over the area.

The military has deployed soldiers and equipment, including amphibious vehicles and inflatable boats, in the areas where Haikui is expected to have the heaviest impact.

The last major storm to hit Taiwan was Typhoon Bailu in 2019, which claimed one person’s life.