Thousands Evacuated as Typhoon Haikui Heads for Taiwan

The Associated Press
People walk and drive under heavy rain as the Typhoon Haikui approaches Taiwan, in Taipei on Saturday.

TAITUNG, Taiwan (AFP-Jiji) — Nearly 3,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas in eastern Taiwan ahead of Typhoon Haikui as authorities prepared Sunday for the first tropical storm to directly hit the island in four years.

Haikui — which had already brought heavy rains by Sunday morning — is packing a sustained wind speed of about 140 kilometres per hour, and is expected to make landfall in Taiwan’s eastern Taitung area by 5 p.m.

Schools and offices around the southern and eastern parts of the island were closed Sunday, and more than 200 domestic flights were cancelled.

Haikui “will be the first typhoon to make landfall in Taiwan in four years,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said Sunday.

“I remind the people to make preparations for the typhoon and watch out for your safety, avoid going out or any dangerous activities.”

The storm was around 180 kilometres east of Taiwan just before 9 a.m., Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said in a press conference.

“It has gathered some strength since yesterday,” said deputy director Fong Chin-tzu, urging to public to be “on guard.”

“It is expected to pose a considerable threat to most areas in Taiwan with winds, rains and waves,” he said, adding that the storm would move west to the Taiwan Strait by Monday.

The Interior Ministry said authorities had evacuated more than 2,800 people across seven cities in Taiwan, the majority of them from the mountainous county of Hualien, which neighbours Taitung.

The streets of Hualien were deserted Sunday morning, battered by unrelenting torrential rain under dark skies.

The military has mobilised soldiers and equipment — such as amphibious vehicles and inflatable rubber boats — around the parts of Taiwan where Haikui is expected to have the heaviest impact.

The last major storm to hit Taiwan was Typhoon Bailu in 2019, which left one person dead.

Haikui is expected to be less severe than Saola, which bypassed Taiwan but triggered the highest threat level in nearby Hong Kong and southern China before it weakened into a tropical storm by Saturday.