Torrential rains swamp Taipei area

TAIPEI - Torrential afternoon rains hit the Greater Taipei region yesterday, causing extensive flooding in at least 130 areas of the metropolis. The probability of rain showers in the same region tomorrow is 50 per cent.

The rain came swiftly and overwhelmed low-lying areas, including Xinzhuang and Sanchong of New Taipei, which recorded over 100 millimeters of rainfall in less than two hours. By early afternoon, the amount of rainfall had exceeded the city's efforts to reroute water.

Flooding in the nation's capital was visible on Chongqing North Road Section 3, with city officials scrambling to respond with water drainage equipment.

The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) also indicated that the weather system was bringing heavy rainfall to northern areas including Taoyuan and Hsinchu cities, with lightning storms and intermittent hail.

The bureau also forecast heavy winds in Northern Taiwan's coastal areas, as well as gales near the outlying island of Kinmen. According to the CWB, more afternoon thunderstorms can be expected in the region again tomorrow.

By mid-afternoon, Taipei City's Disaster Prevention and Rescue Information centre had received 130 flood alerts, and 35 different cases affecting public infrastructure, mostly centred in the city's western districts of Datong, Shilin and Zhongshan. Rain in Zhongshan's Dazhi region had inched to 84 millimeters toward the evening, the highest level in Taipei City.

Traffic Disruption in Sanchong, Banqiao

Areas of Sanchong became urban lakes as water quickly accumulated on major road arteries, as the district saw its worst flooding since Typhoon Morakot made landfall in 2009. Some residents also took pictures of fish that were swimming in the newly formed rivers.

Waters reached half the height of car wheels, and caused engine failures for some commuters. Local police were seen rolling up their pant legs while helping to push immobilized vehicles out of the way.

Temporary flooding also occurred near Chongxin Bridge Flea Market, Zhengyi North Road, Xinyi West Street and Xinbei Expressway near the Sanchong District Administrative Office.

Meanwhile in New Taipei's administrative district of Banqiao, which saw close to 50 millimeters of rain by mid-afternoon, a pool of water measuring 20-meters long and 6-meters wide swamped an area near the intersection of Hansheng East Road and Wenhua Road.

An underground parking garage on Xinhai Road was also flooded when cracks appeared in its walls. Local fire department officials are continuing to investigate whether those cracks were flood-related.

New Taipei traffic authorities beefed up traffic directing efforts while towing away illegally parked vehicles that were adding misery to worsening traffic conditions.

Officials indicate that so far no land- or mudslides had occurred by roadsides.