Taiwan braces itself for tropical storm Fung-Wong

Taiwan braces itself for tropical storm Fung-Wong
Residents wade through floodwaters on a street while others watch from the rooftop of their house after Tropical Storm Fung-Wong battered Cainta, Rizal province, east of Manila September 20, 2014.

TAIPEI - Taiwan on Saturday readied nearly 50,000 troops in preparation for tropical storm Fung-Wong as it churns toward the island with threats of downpours and powerful winds after claiming five lives in the Philippines.

Three counties in southern Taiwan have decided to close offices and schools from Saturday night while dozens of flights and ferry services were suspended, authorities said.

Uni Air, which cancelled 12 domestic flights Saturday, announced that it will suspend all services scheduled for Sunday.

The defence ministry said it has ordered 48,000 soldiers to be on stand-by in preparation of the storm while the authorities urged people in low-laying areas to take precautions against flooding as the storm is expected to generate torrential rains across the island.

In the southern metropolis Kaohsiung, television footage showed residents pile up sandbags outside their houses along the roads badly damaged by gas explosions on July 31 that killed 31 and wounded more than 300 people.

Fung-Wong, which was 200 kilometres (124 miles) south-southwest of Taiwan's southernmost tip at 0900 GMT, was moving north at 17 kilometres per hour and packing gusts of 119 kilometres per hour, according to the Central Weather Bureau.

"Fung-Wong is maintaining its strength and is likely to make landfall in the south on Sunday when its impact will be the strongest. It will bring heavy rains all over Taiwan starting tonight and all day tomorrow, especially in southern parts," the bureau said.

In July, typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan with fierce winds and downpours, leaving nine people injured while interrupting rail and air transportation.

A TransAsia Airways domestic flight crashed after an aborted landing during the typhoon, killing 48 people on board while ten passengers survived.

In the Philippines, Fung-Wong claimed five lives, with roof-high floods chasing 83,000 people from their homes, after heavy rains paralysed the capital Manila and nearby regions.

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