Taiwan battens down for typhoon Nepartak

Soldiers distributing sand bags to residents in Ilan county in north-east Taiwan yesterday. More than 35,000 soldiers are on standby to help with evacuations and disaster relief.
Soldiers distributing sand bags to residents in Ilan county in north-east Taiwan yesterday. More than 35,000 soldiers are on standby to help with evacuations and disaster relief.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Taiwan is under lockdown as Typhoon Nepartak roars its way across the island, bringing fierce winds and torrential rain.

A man in his 30s drowned yesterday while swimming in rough seas in Hualien in eastern Taiwan.

More than 200 international and domestic flights have been cancelled, the Central Emergency Operations Centresaid.

Most train services plying the eastern coast were suspended from 4pm yesterday while all high-speed rail services will stop running along west Taiwan until 5pm today.

The island's eastern coast is expected to bear the brunt of Taiwan's first typhoon this year, which is also likely to be its fourth-strongest storm in 20 years.

Nepartak was expected to make landfall after midnight.

With a radius of 200km, the storm was moving at a speed of about 17kmh towards the south, said the Central Weather Bureau.

Weather forecasters expect the typhoon to dump as much as 900mmof rain.

While the typhoon has slowed down, the authorities are not taking any chances as it could collect more moisture and become stronger. Heavy rains and gusty winds are expected to bear down on Taiwan until this evening.

More than 35,000 soldiers are on standby to help with evacuations and disaster relief, while shelters have been set up across the island. Defence Minister Feng Shih-kuan said yesterday that his ministry is "prepared for the worst".

With the exception of outlying Kinmen and Lienchiang, all counties and municipalities across Taiwan, including Taipei, have decided to close offices and schools today, with the authorities urging people to stay at home and take precautions against flooding.

Thousands living along the coast in Hualien have been evacuated from their homes, as well as those in New Taipei City on the northern tip of the island and in the south-western city of Tainan.

Hoping to escape Nepartak's fury, tourists and holidaymakers scrambled to catch the last trains back to Taipei yesterday.

While the storm has scuttled his three-day holiday to Taroko Gorge in Hualien, sales executive Paul Chen, 32, said: "I'd rather play it safe and come back."

Last year, Typhoon Soudelor killed at least eight people, injured over 400 others and knocked out power supplies in nearly five million households.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'Taiwan battens down for typhoon'. Print Edition | Subscribe