Heavy rain brings flooding across south of Taiwan

TAIPEI - Heavy rainfall yesterday and over the weekend that was concentrated on the central and southern regions of Taiwan has caused flooding as the government has scrambled to issue warnings across the area.

Forecasters predict that the unstable weather may last into the weekend, with torrential rains, gusty winds and lightning likely especially in Southern Taiwan.

According to rainfall statistics compiled by the Central Weather Bureau (CWB), during a 24-hour period ending at 1730 yesterday afternoon, Pingtung's Taiwu Village was pummeled with close to 600 millimeters (approximately two feet) of rain, while areas of Kaohsiung's Taoyuan District collected close to 500 millimeters.

The Water Resources Agency of the Ministry of Economic Affairs issued stage-one flood warnings for Kaohsiung City and Pintung County yesterday morning while residents of Chiayi County and Tainan City were advised to take flood precautions for stage-two flood warnings.

Due to a lingering storm front, the CWB stated that heavy rains in mountainous areas in Chiayi and further south could lead to falling rocks and landslides. Falling rocks already tragically claimed the life of a veteran school teacher of Alishan Township's Fengshan Elementary School on Sunday evening.

Roads Sealed off, Trains Slowed

The unceasing rains from the plum rain season have caused numerous roads to be closed for safety reasons. The Directorate General of Highways indicated that three main roads are still closed to traffic, including a stretch of Provincial Highway 20 in Kaohsiung, which will be off limits until June 8. The two other roads (Provincial Highway 3 and No. 159 County Road in Chiayi) were scheduled to be given the all clear for traffic yesterday evening.

Due to safety concerns, the Taiwan Railway Administration also issued speed reductions to trains along its South-Link Line beginning at 17:00 yesterday. Trains traveling to and from Jialu to Fangye stations will be limited to speeds of 60 kilometers an hour.

Produce Prices to Rise

Meanwhile, although dramatically easing previous drought conditions, severe weather has already caused damage to crops in agricultural areas in Taiwan's south.

Agricultural officials in Kaohsiung estimate losses amounting to NT$1.7 million (S$75,000). Prices for rice, papayas and other leafy vegetables may see increases of 10 to 20 per cent. In addition, flooding has also destroyed crops in Changhua Country, with some areas reporting losses of close to 50 per cent in daily produce yields.

Clamor for Dengue Fever Prevention

City officials in Kaohsiung also urged residents and clean up crews to focus on emptying water containers and other vessels that could foment the breeding of dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes.

Areas of focus outside of area schools included orchards and gardens, construction sites, traditional markets, recycling centres and gutters.