Taipei: Taiwan cancelled dozens of flights and shut schools and offices on Thursday as the island braced for a direct hit from super typhoon Nepartak, the first major tropical storm of the season. As of 11 a.m., 53 inbound flights, 27 outbound flights and 17 cargo flights had been canceled, while nine other flights had been delayed, the Taoyuan International Airport Corp. said.
Gusts of up to 245km/h (152 miles an hour) have been recorded as the typhoon rumbles towards the eastern county of Hualien, where it is due to make landfall early Friday, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau. The storm is expected to dump torrential rain across the island, with mountainous areas forecast to receive up to 500mm (20in), potentially triggering landslides that have in the past claimed hundreds of lives.
More than 35,000 soldiers are on standby to help with evacuations and disaster relief, while 90 shelters have been set up. About 200 people have been moved from their homes in Hualien and the southern cities of Tainan and Kaohsiung, according to the Central Emergency Operation Centre.
Conditions were expected to deteriorate significantly before the storm hits, the weather bureau said. “Its storm circle is gradually approaching the waters off south-eastern Taiwan, posing a threat to all regions and [the island chain] Penghu,” it added.
The storm had a radius of 200km and was moving west-northwest at a speed of 14km/h. The storm is forecast to hit southern China as a typhoon after battering Taiwan. Super typhoon Dujuan killed three people and injured more than 300 in Taiwan last year, leaving behind a trail of destruction. In 2009, typhoon Morakot devastated the island, killing more than 600 people, most of them buried in huge landslides in the south.