Wind and rain lashed northern Taiwan as Typhoon Soulik moved onshore, disrupting flights, including a Hawaiian Airlines flight that was supposed to leave earlier today, and forcing government offices to close.
The island’s first typhoon of the year moved at 14.3 miles)an hour west-northwest across Taiwan as of 8 p.m. local time, according to the Central Weather Bureau, with winds as fast as 198 kilometers per hour. Government offices and schools in most parts of Taiwan, including Taipei and Hsinchu, will be closed, according to the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration.
Officials evacuated people at risk from landslides and airlines canceled more than 200 flights after the weather bureau said the storm may dump as much as 39 inches of rain in the island’s northern and central mountains. President Ma Ying-jeou called on local governments and citizens to take precautions and be on alert, according to a statement from his office today.
“The storm is upon us and its impact will be felt through tomorrow morning,” Chen Yi-liang, a forecaster with the Central Weather Bureau, said in a live webcast just before 9 p.m. in Taipei. Soulik, the eye of which was still 230 kilometers off of Taiwan’s eastern coast at 8 p.m., will make landfall early Saturday morning (Taiwan time), the bureau said.
Damage from Taiwan’s first typhoon of the year may be exacerbated by loose soil following large earthquakes in March and June, the Central Emergency Operations Center said in a statement. Weather trackers saw eight typhoons last year including Saola, which killed seven people and destroyed $40 million of agricultural produce. Morakot in 2009 killed more than 600 people and brought record rainfall.
Authorities evacuated 1,158 people throughout the island to preempt disaster, National Fire Agency Deputy Director Chen Wen- long said by phone. “We fear heavy rains will cause mudslides that will block roads, so we’re clearing people out as a precaution.”
The highways department said in a statement it would close 15 roads across the island.
Airlines operating in and out of Taiwan canceled or delayed 250 flights, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said in an e- mailed statement. Taiwan’s largest carrier, China Airlines, will ground 11 flights and delay 28 that had been scheduled for before 11 a.m. Saturday, the administration said.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 808, scheduled for 8:55 p.m. Friday (Taipei time), was delayed until 2 p.m. Saturday (Taiwan time) and will arrive at 6:15 a.m. Saturday in Honolulu (after crossing the International Dateline). Hawaiian just started service to Taipei this week.
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., based in Hong Kong, canceled 14 flights traveling to or from Taipei tonight and tomorrow, according to an airline statement. It also canceled all flights Saturday between Hong Kong and the southeastern Chinese cities of Fuzhou and Wenzhou.
China’s National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center raised a wave warning to orange, the second-highest of four levels, in the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and waters near Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, Xinhua reported.
An yearly average of seven typhoons are monitored by Taiwan authorities with the greatest frequency between the months of July and September, according to bureau data.