Taiwan cancels flights, closes schools and offices as Typhoon Maria closes in

Workers securing ropes at the Patoutzu Fishing Harbour in Keelung on July 10, 2018, as boats come into dock ahead of the arrival of Typhoon Maria.
Workers securing ropes at the Patoutzu Fishing Harbour in Keelung on July 10, 2018, as boats come into dock ahead of the arrival of Typhoon Maria.PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI - Airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights on Tuesday (July 10) while several regions in northern Taiwan are set to close schools and offices as the island braces itself for Typhoon Maria.

Train services were also likely to be rescheduled, the semi-official Central News Agency reported, but the island's high-speed rail system was operating normally.

Maria was expected to make landfall late on Tuesday, hitting the northern half of Taiwan the hardest, as it moves in a west-northwesterly direction at 30 kph, from its location 370km east of the north-eastern county of Yilan as of 2:30pm Tuesday, weather officials said.

Several airlines, including China Airlines, EVA Airways, Cathay Pacific and Tigerair Taiwan, have cancelled 161 international flights and 117 within Taiwan as of 10am on Tuesday, reports said.

China Airlines (CAL) postponed four flights between Taoyuan and Okinawa to Wednesday, while Tigerair Taiwan cancelled flights between Taiwan and Japan, Macau and Bangkok.

Direct train services between the Taoyuan international airport and Taipei are to be suspended beginning 6:45pm.

Meanwhile, Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, and Yilan will close schools and office starting at 4pm on Tuesday.

Some areas will shut down earlier, with schools and offices in the mountainous Fuxing District in Taoyuan closing at noon and those in Yilan closing at 3pm, Central News Agency said, citing the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp said operations were normal as of noon on Tuesday, and it will announce before 8 pm any disruption to services for Wednesday.

The Taiwan Railways Administration said, meanwhile, that its trains will operate as scheduled until 4 pm on Tuesday.

Changes to its schedule after that because of the typhoon were to be announced at around noon on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the weather bureau has urged the public to avoid water activities and warned fishing boats to take precautions, reported Agence France-Presse.  Dozens of ferry services to offshore islands were suspended on Monday, AFP said. 

Local television footage also showed farmers rushing to harvest fruit and vegetables ahead of the typhoon.  

Taiwan is frequently hit by typhoons in the summer. Last year, more than 100 people were injured when Typhoon Nesat battered the island, causing flooding and widespread power outages. 

Morakot was the deadliest typhoon to hit the island in recorded history, killing nearly 700 people, most of them in landslides, in 2009.