Taiwan braces for typhoon hours after earthquake strikes

A super typhoon hitting the coast of Taiwan. (Reuters pic)

TAIPEI: A powerful typhoon will hit Taiwan later on Thursday, bringing the risk of landslides and high seas, weather forecasters said. This comes just hours after a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck the island.

Typhoon Lekima, categorised at the strongest typhoon level by Taiwan’s weather bureau, was expected to approach off the island’s northeastern coast late on Thursday. It was moving across the ocean in a north-northwesterly direction at 15 km per hour, weather officials said.

Lekima was carrying maximum winds of 227 km per hour as it approaches Taiwan, the weather bureau said.

The bureau issued wind and rain warnings for greater Taipei, the northern port city of Keelung and other northern counties. It also put out a warning to seafarers off the south and east coasts.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Taiwan’s northeastern coast earlier on Thursday, prompting warnings of landslides as the weather bureau forecast rainfall of up to 900 millimetres in the island’s northern mountains.

“An earthquake struck when we are making preparations for the typhoon, which is a rare event,” premier Su Tseng-chang told a meeting at a national emergency centre, urging authorities to stay on alert when the storm approaches.

The earthquake cut power to more than 10,000 buildings and a woman was killed by a falling wardrobe.

More than 1,500 people were moved to safety, most of them tourists on islands off its east coast, while troops were deployed in some areas amid fears of floods.

The storm will proceed into China, approaching its eastern city of Shanghai over the weekend, the weather bureau said.

Typhoons regularly hit Taiwan, China, the Philippines and Japan in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea before weakening over land.

Typhoon Morakot devastated the island in 2009, killing nearly 700 people, most of them in landslides.