TAIPEI – Taiwan is bracing for a direct hit by Typhoon Soulik early Saturday, prompting precautionary evacuations due to the risk of landslides, and airlines predicting high winds that would disrupt flights.
Soulik may make landfall in northeastern Yilan or eastern Hualien counties early Saturday and drop as much as a meter of rain on the island’s northern and central mountains Friday and Saturday, the Central Weather Bureau said.
President Ma Ying-jeou called on local governments and citizens to make preparations and be on alert for mudslides, according to a statement from his office Friday.
Damage from Taiwan’s first typhoon of the year may be exacerbated by loose soil following large earthquakes in March and June, the Central Emergency Operations Center said in a statement.
The bureau tracked eight typhoons last year including Saola, which killed seven people and destroyed NT$1.2 billion ($40 million) of agricultural produce. Morakot in 2009 killed more than 600 people and brought record rainfall.
A township in Yilan country was to evacuate 330 people from their homes ahead of the storm due to frequent mudslides in heavy rain, the Central News Agency reported.
The government announced schools and offices would close after 2 p.m. Friday and that banks would be open until 3:30 p.m. as usual, the Financial Supervisory Commission said.
Taiwan authorities issued a land warning and advised people to avoid outdoor activities as Typhoon Soulik approached from the east.
China’s National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center raised a wave warning to orange, the second-highest of four levels, in the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and waters near Zhejiang and Fujian provinces, Xinhua reported.
With gusts of as fast as 209 kph, the eye of the storm was about 420 km east-southeast of Yilan county at 11 a.m. local time Friday and heading west-northwest at 23 kph, the weather bureau said on its website.
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. canceled 14 flights between Hong Kong and Taipei from 9 p.m. Friday to 2 p.m. Saturday, a statement said. The airline will waive rebooking and rerouting charges for people affected. Taiwan’s largest carrier China Airlines Ltd. canceled 12 flights for Friday, its website said.
A total of 46 inbound and outbound flights from northern Taiwan had been canceled as of 10:30 a.m., according to a statement from Taoyuan International Airport Corp. Ltd.
An average of seven typhoons are monitored by Taiwan every year, with most of them arriving between July and September, bureau data show. The most recent was Super Typhoon Jelawat, which sparked a sea warning in September before injuring 20 people and grounding flights in Okinawa.