Typhoon Soulik made landfall early on Saturday morning in Taiwan, killing at least one person and injuring seven in the capital Taipei. The entire island declared an “alert zone”, and thousands of people have now been evacuated.
A 50-year-old police officer died after he was hit in the head by a brick that came loose during the typhoon in Taipei, the Central Emergency Operation Centre said. Seven people were injured mostly by falling objects.
According to officials, more than 8,000 people have been moved from their homes, many from southern areas prone to landslides. 3,000 were moved out of Kaohsiung city and 2,000 others from Pingtung county.
They have been taken to local government buildings which have been turned into shelters. Soldiers were deployed in high risk areas.
Offices and schools remained closed in Taipei and eight other cities and residents were advised to stay indoors as the typhoon hits the island. Packing winds of up to 170 kilometres an hour, Soulik made landfall on the north-east coast on Saturday, the Central Weather Bureau said.
Even before Soulik’s arrival, Taipei was affective by powerful winds and downpours which disrupted power in some areas, ripped out trees and caused injuries.
In the north, more than 600 residents were evacuated from six low-lying aboriginal riverside villages on Friday morning. Villagers reinforced the roofs of their wooden homes.
In Wuchieh, a township in the northeastern Yilan county, over 2000 sandbags were snatched up by residents and two amphibious military vehicles were deployed for rescue services.
President Ma Ying-jeou urged government units and the public “not to let their guards down” in a statement Friday, after inspecting the central government’s disaster response centre.
More than 2,000 tourists had already been evacuated from the remote Green Island, southeast of Taiwan, on Thursday.
The storm has disrupted air travel to and from Taiwan. According to the transport authorities, 113 flights were cancelled. Local television in the capital reported traffic gridlock and a run on supermarkets as people rushed to stock up.
Typhoon Morakot killed about 600 people in Taiwan in August 2009, most of them buried in huge landslides in the south, in one of the worst natural disasters to hit the island in recent years.
Soulik is the first typhoon to hit Taiwan this year. The military is on standby and 102 camps have been set up to assist those who lose their homes.