Taipei: Taiwan began evacuating residents in mountainous areas while offices and schools were closed and flights were cancelled on Tuesday as Typhoon Maria churned towards the island bringing torrential rains and powerful winds.
Maria was 310 kilometres east of the northeastern coastal town of Yilan packing gusts of up to 173 kilometres an hour as of 5:00 pm (0900 GMT), the weather bureau said.
Its impact was expected to be strongest from late Tuesday to early Wednesday although it has weakened slightly in the past few hours, with up to 500 millimetres of rainfall forecast for some areas, the bureau added.
Authorities said nearly 700 people had been evacuated as of Tuesday evening. Local television showed soldiers going door to door in a mountainside village in Yilan to help evacuate residents.
Officials have warned of possible floods and mudslides.
“I have ordered the troops to stand by for relevant disaster prevention and relief... I also want to urge the public again to make typhoon preparations as early as possible,” President Tsai Ing-wen said in a post on her Facebook page.
Premier William Lai also warned local authorities and the public to “remain vigilant” for the first typhoon of the season in Taiwan.
He urged people to stay indoors and cooperate with the government’s disaster prevention plans. — AFP