Powerful typhoon knocks out power, transportation in Taiwan; 6,000 flee mountains

By Debby Wu, AP
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Typhoon knocks out power, transportation in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A powerful typhoon made landfall in eastern China on Monday after ripping into Taiwan, flooding the southern part of the island, crippling transportation and shutting off power as thousands of residents fled mountainous areas prone to landslides.

Typhoon Fanapi was the first major storm to strike the island this year and the 11th typhoon to hit China. It landed in Fujian province at 7 a.m., according to the flood control headquarters, after crossing Taiwan on Sunday with peak winds of 102 mph (162 kph).

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said as much as 44 inches (112 centimeters) of rain had been dumped in southern Taiwan by early Monday — with more to come. TV images showed water submerging streets and first floors of buildings.

Military vehicles entered inundated areas to help trapped residents in the southern part of the island, including Taiwan’s second largest city Kaohsiung, late Sunday.

Schools and offices were closed in southern Taiwan on Monday.

Officials evacuated 10,000 residents from remote areas vulnerable to landslides, half of them in the southern part of the island, according to Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operation Center.

The center also said 107 people were injured. Some were cut by broken glass and others hurt when they fell off motorcycles in strong winds.

Landslides caused by torrential rains are traditionally the greatest danger the typhoons bring to this island of 23 million people, which is riven by a series of tall mountains and narrow valleys dotted with hundreds of isolated farming communities.

Taiwan’s China Airlines suspended all international departures from Kaohsiung. All of Taiwan’s domestic air and rail service was halted.

Officials said seven inter-county roads in central and southern Taiwan were closed because of safety concerns, and another 18 were blocked.

Taiwan’s government has deployed thousands of emergency workers and military personnel throughout the island to try to mitigate damage, mindful of the estimated 700 deaths caused by Typhoon Morakot last year.

Following that disaster, President Ma Ying-jeou’s approval rating collapsed, and he was forced to replace many of his senior ministers.

The Taiwan Power Company said in a statement 170,000 Taiwanese households had lost electricity as of Sunday morning.

In eastern China, the Fujian provincial water resources department said 186,700 people had been evacuated.

“Fanapi is the strongest typhoon to hit Fujian in 2010 and we should prepare for the worst,” said Sun Chunlan, Communist Party chief of Fujian, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Authorities in the province evacuated about 150,000 fishing crew and recalled 55,000 boats to shore. An additional 6,000 elderly people, women and children living along the coast were also moved to safety, the water resources department said.

Associated Press Writers Gillian Wong and Alexa Olesen in Beijing contributed to this report.

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