Powerful typhoon hits Taiwan, headed for China

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TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A powerful typhoon surged across northern Taiwan on Saturday, killing at least one person and disrupting transportation and commerce around the island of 23 million people, before heading westward toward the heavily populated Chinese coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang.

Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said that as of 8:30 a.m., Typhoon Soulik was at sea, just to the west of the Taiwanese city of Hsinchu. It was packing winds of 137 kph (86 mph), down from the 163 kph it had boasted on making Taiwanese landfall around dawn, but still enough to threaten substantial dislocation and damage to property.

Torrential rains buffeted large areas of northern and central Taiwan, with Hsinchu and the neighboring county of Miaoli reporting totals of 27-31 inches by early Saturday.

Around Taipei and in its environs, emergency crews were struggling to restore power to the 520,000 homes where it had been disrupted, and to remove hundreds of trees uprooted by the storm from streets and roads.

Schools and businesses throughout northern Taiwan were closed by government order on Friday, and the military evacuated 8,000 people from mountainous villages considered vulnerable to flash flooding.

Just after midnight on Saturday a falling brick took the life of a policeman in the Taipei suburb of Tanshui, while elsewhere, the National Fire Agency reported there were at least 21 injuries.

Dozens of flights at Taipei’s main international airport were canceled beginning Friday afternoon, though operations were expected to return to normal by late Saturday. Taiwan’s high speed rail system also suspended operations, at least until early Saturday afternoon.

Across the Taiwan Strait, the China Meteorological Administration said Soulik would make landfall in Zhejiang and Fujian on Saturday before moving inland.

Local authorities were urged to suspend all maritime activities and cancel large-scale gatherings while reinforcing port and seafood farming facilities to reduce the chances of damage. Service on more than two dozen trains was canceled.

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