Torrential rain rages across Taiwan, at least 5 dead
Tropical Storm Guchol could head for Taiwan next weekend: CWB
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2012-06-12 03:58 PM
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Torrential rain expanded across Taiwan Tuesday as offices and schools closed amid flooding and traffic problems.

Even though the Central Weather Bureau originally predicted a strong case of ‘plum rain,’ the rains took on the force of a tropical storm or light typhoon, bringing excessive amounts of rain to most of the country.

The heavy rains started in Southern and Central Taiwan over the weekend and arrived in the North with thunderstorms on Monday night.

At least five people died in the rains since the weekend, including one person in Taoyuan County who reportedly drowned after being swept away Tuesday morning. Earlier, one person who had been listed as deceased in New Taipei City was struck off the list because the cause of death was not related to the weather, reports said.

Damage to agriculture amounted to at least NT$144.72 million (US$4.8 million), an increase of more than NT$100 million (US$3.3 million) over Monday, officials said. Pingtung was the worst-affected area. Wholesale vegetable prices were likely to increase by 23 percent as an immediate result.

A group of 15 mountaineers missing in Central Taiwan were found unharmed on Tuesday, unconfirmed news reports said, though there were still other cases of people gone missing during excursions in areas threatened by heavy rain.

Even Taipei City ordered offices and schools closed at 10 a.m. Tuesday, after New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung and parts of other counties and cities did the same. Mayor Hau Lung-bin came under fire for waiting too long, but he defended himself by saying the official amounts of rain had not reached the usual levels for closure yet. Offices and schools remained open in the northern coast town of Keelung, usually known for its excessive rain.

By 6 p.m., Taipei City, New Taipei City and Taoyuan County announced that schools and offices would work normally on Wednesday.

Flooding was reported from a wide range of areas, including the Tucheng, Chungho and Yungho areas of New Taipei City, the road between Taoyuan and Yingko, Kueishan in Taoyuan County and Tayuan near Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. In the capital, buses on 15 lines had to be rerouted, especially in the Muzha and Xinyi areas, reports said.

The rains also exacted a toll on traffic, disrupting air and rail travel, and even threatening to flood a Mass Rapid Transit station in Taipei.

High-speed rail trains stopped operating between Tainan and Zuoying in Kaohsiung until Tuesday noon, while water leaked into Songjiang Nanjing MRT station in Taipei and caused flooding around Xinpu MRT station in the Panchiao area of New Taipei City. The running of the MRT trains was not affected, officials said.

On the island’s railway network, an estimated 65 trains were unable to reach their destinations because of heavy rain, while during the afternoon, the Pingtung Bus Company canceled all its services.

Eva Airways said its reservation system was disrupted by flooding, forcing delays of up to two hours for some EVA and Uni Air flights, mostly in the direction of China, Hong Kong, Macao and South Korea, reports said. Since late Monday, more than two dozens of flights were delayed or canceled, leaving at least 2,000 travelers stranded, reports said. A Japan Air Lines plane left on the tarmac overnight was reportedly flooded, though it was not clear whether the water had damaged the engines.

Landslides broke off connections between several areas in mountainous parts of Central Taiwan. The Central Cross-Island Highway was closed off because it had become impassible. The main road between Puli and Wushe in Central Taiwan’s mountainous Nantou County was still closed Tuesday, after dozens of buses were stuck on the road Sunday while taking tourists home at the end of the weekend.

There were reports of landslides, floods and collapses of land and bridges in several parts of the country. In Taishan, New Taipei City, a car park collapsed down a hillside taking three cars down with it, while the Nankan Interchange, a key highway hub close to Taoyuan and to the international airport, was flooded, reports said.

More than 3,000 residents and travelers were evacuated from areas threatened by landslides in Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung and Nantou, the Central Disaster Emergency Center said Tuesday noon. There were still reports about hundreds of people trapped by swollen rivers and damaged roads and bridges in several mountainous areas.

At least 15 observation points across the country reported rain in excess of 1,000 millimeter, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Some of the worst-hit areas in the South over the weekend were parts of Kaohsiung and Pingtung already flooded during Typhoon Morakot in August 2009.

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