Taiwan braces for Fung-Wong weather

A man uses plywood to move mud out of his house in Banaba village, suburban Manila. Heavy rains brought by the outer bands of Tropical Storm Fung-Wong shut down the Philippine capital, stranding motorists and forcing tens of thousands to flee their flooded homes, officials said.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Tropical storm Fung-Wong continued to approach southern Taiwan yesterday in a predicted path sweeping through the entire island today, the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) warned.

Fung-Wong was 200 kilometers south-southwest of the southernmost cape of Eluanbi as of 5 p.m., moving north at 17 kilometers per hour, the CWB said, predicting it would accelerate to 20 kilometers per hour later.

The periphery of the storm was expected to reach southern Taiwan some time during the night and make landfall in the morning today, the CWB said.

The CWB said Fund-Wong was expected to continue its northerly direction after making landfall, but it is uncertain whether it would move along the east or west coast.

But whatever path it may take, the entirety of Taiwan should feel its full impact with heavy rains expected in all parts of the island, the CWB said.

Fung-Wong had been previously expected to reach Taiwan earlier, but it became almost stagnant for hours yesterday morning before accelerating in the afternoon.

Heavy rains have already been seen in Pingtung County and Kaohsiung City in the south and Taitung and Hualien counties in the east in the morning, the CWB said.

Taiwan's central and northern areas will likely see rain starting yesterday night, the CWB added Saturday afternoon.

Work and school were suspended last night completely in Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung municipalities and counties Chunghua, Nantou, Yunlin, Pingtung, Taitung, Hualien, Yilan, Penghu and both Chiayi City and County as well as some parts of Taoyuan, Hsinchu and Miaoli County, as rainfall and wind speeds in these areas already reached levels requiring closure of classes and offices.

Other regions had yet to announce the status of school and work for today as of press time.

In the southern port city of Kaohsiung, residents living in areas hit by the July deadly gas explosions braced for flooding by stacking sandbags at their front doors.

But many of them expressed deep worries that heavy rains would wash away the foundations of buildings along badly damaged roads, as post-explosion reconstruction work has yet to finish.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu, while presiding over the city's disaster response meeting, noted that the water-pumping systems in the blast-hit areas have yet to be completely restored, but the government has already moved in many water pumps to battle possible flooding.

She also asked firms in charge of the reconstruction work to stand by around the clock.

The mayor also ordered pre-cautionary evacuation from some areas and decreed that all shelters must be ready.

Further north in Chiayi County, officials said the Alishan mountain railway will be closed today and tomorrow.

Oyster farmers in Chiayi scrambled to harvest their crops from their offshore farms. The county government also allowed the farmers to move their oyster racks into one of the county's fishing ports.

Agricultural officials said urged farmers nationwide to take precautionary measures to minimise the losses to be inflicted by Fung-Wong.