Taiwan clear up after typhoon flooding

TAIPEI (AFP) – Schools and offices were closed in typhoon-hit parts of Taiwan on Monday as residents started clearing up after their homes were flooded by the storm which moved on to pummel southern China.

Typhoon Fanapi, the strongest to hit the region this year with gusts of up to 220 kilometres (138 miles) per hour, made landfall on the east coast on Sunday and dumped up to 1,000 millimetres (39 inches) of rain in the south.

The typhoon weakened as it swept into the southern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangdong Monday, but was still packing winds of 125 kilometres (75 miles) an hour, the government’s flood headquarters and state media said.

“It is possible that Fanapi will sweep across Guangdong province and bring serious flooding and geological disasters to the region,” the provincial flood headquarters warned.

Local authorities ordered tens of thousands of fishermen from the two provinces to bring their boats to safe harbours.

The storm was inching closer to Hong Kong, meteorologists said, and was expected to come within 100 kilometres north of the territory overnight, bringing heavy rains and strong winds.

In Taiwan, television images showed the military using amphibious vehicles to rescue citizens trapped by flash flooding in Kaohsiung, the island’s second-biggest city.

More than 100 people were injured, with some blown over by gales, knocked from motorcycles or hit by flying debris, according to the National Fire Agency.

Some schools and offices in Kaohsiung and neighbouring areas were closed Monday as the floods gradually subsided and soldiers were deployed to help residents clear up.

The typhoon left more than 70,000 homes without power and around 15,000 others without water, officials said.

“This was the worst flooding we’ve experienced in my life. It was even worse than the one caused last year by Typhoon Morakot,” one man told cable news network TVBS.

Morakot devastated southern Taiwan just over a year ago, leaving more than 700 people dead or missing in one of the island’s worst natural disasters.

Although Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau has removed the warning against the powerful storm, it warned of further downpours in the days ahead.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who was accused of responding slowly to the Morakot disaster, moved quickly to react to Fanapi and was filmed wading through knee-deep waters in the coastal town of Linpien.

Flooding from Fanapi caused havoc at a petrochemical complex in the Kaohsiung area, halting production at more than 10 factories and causing an estimated two billion Taiwan dollars (63.1 million US) damage.

Crop damage across the island was expected to reach more than 1.6 billion Taiwan dollars, according to the Council of Agriculture.

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