Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-09-20 04:06 PM
The Central Weather Bureau issued land warnings for southern and central parts of the island Friday. The warnings covered Central and South Taiwan beginning from Changhua and Taichung, and also including Penghu. Ships in all seas around Taiwan with the exception of the far North were warned to take extra precautions against the typhoon.
At 9 p.m., Usagi was centered about 350 kilometers east-southeast of Oluanpi, Taiwan’s southernmost point, and churning west-northwest at a speed of 19 km per hour, the bureau said. The super typhoon was packing sustained winds of up to 198 km per hour, with gusts reaching 245 km per hour.
The bureau predicted between 800 and 1,100 millimeters of rain for the east coast areas of Hualien and Taitung, 600 to 900 mm for mountainous parts of Yilan and Pingtung, and 500 to 800 mm for mountains in Kaohsiung. However, other regions of the country from Taipei to Taichung should also expect significant amounts of torrential rain Saturday and Sunday morning, forecasters said.
As common during typhoons, the bureau warned of flooding in low-lying areas and landslides uphill.
The eye of the storm was expected to pass close by Taiwan’s southernmost point around Saturday noon, but landfall in Pingtung County’s Hengchun Peninsula could not entirely be ruled out, reports said.
Weather bureau statistics showed that Usagi’s wind speed of 55 meters per second made it the second strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan during the past 20 years, though it failed to make the list of the 10 strongest in history. The highest wind speed of the most recent two decades was 58 meters per second recorded for Super Typhoon Doug in August 1994, reports said. The storm killed 26 people in Taiwan and destroyed more than 100 homes.
Kaohsiung, Tainan, Pingtung, Hualien and Taitung announced the closures of their offices and schools for Saturday. Wufeng and Chienshih, two mountainous townships in Hsinchu County prone to landslides, did the same. In preparation for the storm, Orchid Island east of Taitung had already done so beginning Friday afternoon and Green Island, closer to Taiwan’s main island, from 6 p.m. Nantou County said it would decide at 9 a.m. Saturday what to do about the afternoon.
Offices and schools were to remain open as normal in Northern Taiwan, including Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung, Yilan, Taoyuan, Hsinchu City and County, reports said. It was not yet clear by press time what other areas, particularly in Central Taiwan, would decide for Saturday.
Shipping traffic between the main island and most of the smaller islands was suspended Friday noon, reports said. Services between Matsu and China’s Fujian Province were also suspended. Train service on the south cross-island railway between Kaohsiung and Taitung was likely to stop at midnight, reports said.
Some domestic flights Saturday were canceled, while China Air Lines announced one flight from Kaohsiung to Osaka in Japan would leave one hour earlier.
Taitung announced it would fine people who entered certain off-limit areas in the mountains or on the coast between NT$50,000 (US$1,700) and NT$250,000 (US$8,500). National forest areas were closed to the public as a precaution, and people were discouraged from starting on long mountain hikes.
The military was standing by to provide emergency assistance, with 44 AAV-7 amphibious vehicles ready to intervene, reports said. The 23,000 soldiers on hand for the Mid-Autumn holiday period would be used for any typhoon rescue and relief operations, the military said.
President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah visited the Central Emergency Operation Center during the afternoon.