Taiwan issues warning as Typhoon Maria approaches

TAIPEI (AFP) - Ferries were suspended and farmers rushed for last-minute harvests on Monday (July 9) as Taiwan braced for Typhoon Maria, with warnings of possible mudslides and flooding as the storm nears.

Maria was 1,100 kilometres east-southeast of the capital Taipei, with gusts of up to 200 kilometres an hour as of 2.30pm local time.

Waves were starting to pound the island's north and east coasts, with the weather bureau predicting the typhoon's impact would be strongest on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

"We urge the public to be vigilant and to cooperate with any preventative evacuation," Interior Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong said.

No evacuations have taken place so far, but Mr Yeh warned that heavy rains posed the risk of floodwaters and mudslides.

The Defence Ministry announced more than 30,000 soldiers would be on standby to help with disaster prevention.

The typhoon would not make a direct hit if it continued on its current trajectory, which would see it skim Taiwan's northern tip, according to the weather bureau.

The bureau urged the public to avoid water activities and warned fishing boats to take precautions in a Monday afternoon sea warning.

Dozens of ferry services to offshore islands were suspended on Monday.

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.