Taiwan cancelled flights and closed schools in parts of its southern region on Wednesday ahead of the expected landfall of Typhoon Koinu, the second major storm in a month to hit the island directly.
Taiwan experiences frequent tropical storms from May to November but last month’s Typhoon Haikui was the first to slam into it in four years — forcing nearly 8,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
Experts say climate change has made the paths of tropical storms harder to forecast while increasing their intensity, which leads to more rains and flash floods.
Ahead of Thursday’s storm, more than 100 international and domestic flights were cancelled, and ferry services to Taiwan’s outlying islands were halted.
About 200 people were evacuated for fear of landslides in the south of the island, while waves lashing the coast could reach up to seven metres (22 feet) high, authorities said.
Fishing boats were crammed into a harbour in Pingtung county on Wednesday to shelter ahead of the typhoon, and primary schools in the agricultural region of Taitung allowed children to go home early.
“It’s barely a month, and we have another typhoon,” 65-year-old Yang Pi-cheng lamented to AFP, as she waited to pick up her grandchildren from Dawang Primary School.
Huang Chen-ying, chief of Dawang village, said she had warned residents living in a hillside area to evacuate ahead of the typhoon.
“If they can leave right now for relatives living elsewhere, we are encouraging them to go,” she told AFP.
A major highway along the coast has also been closed.
Koinu — which has been charting a jagged course for Taiwan’s southern tip — was about 200 kilometres (125 miles) east of the island at about 0900 GMT, moving towards it at 10 kilometres per hour.
The typhoon has already brought heavy rains to the mountainous northeast regions of Yilan and New Taipei City.
“We forecast that its centre will pass through the Hengchun Peninsula at the southern tip of Taiwan tomorrow morning,” said Lu Kuo-chen, head of Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration.
After making landfall in Taiwan, Typhoon Koinu is forecast to move towards the eastern coast of China’s Guangdong province, according to the weather observatory in nearby Hong Kong.
The Chinese territory — which last month was skirted by a typhoon before being flooded by the heaviest rainfall in 140 years days later — issued its lowest typhoon signal at 9:40 pm (1340 GMT). It will be in force for most of Thursday, the observatory said.