A major typhoon surged toward Taiwan on Friday, closing offices and schools, disrupting transportation, and confining millions of residents to their homes as its violent western fringe lashed the island with high winds and heavy rains.
Meanwhile as typhoon Morakot was expected to hit Fujian and Zhejiang provinces on Saturday, local authorities have also ordered all schools and scenic spots to close before 4 pm on Friday.
Late Friday morning, the Taiwan Weather Bureau placed the center of Typhoon Morakot about 170 km south of Taiwan's eastern county of Yilan. The typhoon was packing winds of 145 km per hour and moving west at a speed of 12 kph.
The storm was expected to make landfall in eastern Taiwan Friday evening, assuming it maintains its present course. Morakot is expected to pass directly through the densely populated north, including the provincial capital of Taipei.
Schools and businesses throughout Taiwan were closed on Friday. Authorities canceled many flights from Taipei and suspended the operations of the island's high-speed railroad.
In the tumbledown northeastern port of Batohzi, huge waves pummeled the rocky coastline and dozens of fishing vessels bided their time behind the protection of a breakwater, waiting for the storm to pass.
Some 30 km to the west, the normally bustling streets of Taipei were largely abandoned, as residents sought refuge from the high winds and heavy rains. By early morning nearby Miaoli county had already accumulated 582 millimeters of precipitation, and some 25,000 area households were without power.
Morakot will be the first typhoon to hit Taiwan this year.
Officials at the Fujian provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said on Friday that about 34,000 vessels had been recalled to port and 21,190 people in the cities of Ningde, Putian, Fuzhou and Quanzhou had been relocated to safe areas.
Waves as high as 6 m were already hitting the coastal area on Friday. Officials at the provincial meteorological observatory said waves could reach up to 9 m as the typhoon came closer.
According to China's Central Meteorological Station, Morakot is expected make a landfall in northern Fujian and central Zhejiang sometime from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning. It is the eighth typhoon to hit China's mainland this year, but will probably the strongest one so far this year, said Dong Rong, deputy director of the Fujian observatory.
Workers building the world's highest power transmission tower on Damaoshan Island in east China's Zhejiang province stopped work on Friday, and took shelter.
(China Daily via agencies August 8, 2009)