Taipei's Taoyuan Airport resumes operations after 219 flights were delayed by flash floods

A flooded road at the northern Taoyuan International Airport, on June 2, 2016.
A flooded road at the northern Taoyuan International Airport, on June 2, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport resumed operations on Friday (June 3) after flash floods caused by a morning thunderstorm suspended flights on Thursday (June 2).

The authorities at the airport, Taiwan's main gateway, said the intense rainfall lasted for more than two hours, "the longest in (the airport's) history". Ground operations were forced to stop, affecting 219 flights - 88 arrivals and 131 departures - as of 1.30pm.

Flight operations also had to be suspended at one point because the Civil Aeronautics Administration's (CAA) navigation station on Datun Mountain was struck by lightning, interfering with radio-frequency transmissions.

Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) said the CAA immediately activated backup equipment as soon as lightning struck, while the firm sent personnel to repair the damaged equipment on site - normal operations were resumed before noon, according to the local media.

The nearby Pushin River broke its banks, inundating the airport's terminals, parking lot and connecting roads, according to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).

Officials also found a storm water drain clogged by garbage.

Indoor flooding at the airport would be cleared by 3pm, and flooding of the main arteries linking the airport was expected to have receded by 4pm, Transportation Minister Hochen Tan told lawmakers at the Legislative Yuan.

Drivers were advised to use the No. 4 provincial highway to access the airport.

Mr Tan said the flooded roads were not been designed to handle heavy rainfall such as that experienced on Thursday, and vowed that airport drainage would be improved and that large water pumps would be deployed.

The minister warned that the frequency of extreme weather events would increase with global warming, and said that a new flood prevention mechanism would be launched at the airport and that the surrounding environment would be flood-proofed after the current crisis was resolved.

Taiwan Premier Lin Chuan has ordered the MOTC to comprehensively assess the causes behind the flash flooding at the Airport, and hold accountable whoever is responsible for any issues resulting from airport construction, the Cabinet spokesman said on Thursday afternoon.

The airport authorities attributed the flooding to a surge in the Pushin River as a result of the thunderstorm.

Taoyuan City Mayor Wen-Tsang Cheng posted a statement in defence of the flood prevention system along the river, stressing that the Pushin River had not overflown its banks during the highest water level at 11.05am on Thursday, hitting only 0.91m.

"There is still a long way to go before it reaches the top of the levee, which is 4.2m," said Mr Cheng. "Pushin River did not overflow the banks."

The Central Weather Bureau issued an extremely heavy warning for Taipei, New Taipei and Keelung City on Thursday morning, a day after record-setting high temperatures.

On Wednesday, Taipei recorded temperatures as high as 38.7 deg C in the afternoon.