Tropical storm hits Taiwan after battering Philippines

Severe tropical storm Trami strikes in heavily populated northern Taiwan, prompting schools and offices to close down as heavy rains trigger landslides and other disruptions throughout the island.

Heavy rains from tropical storm Trami trigger landslides

Heavy rain in the Philippine capital Manila, partially due to tropical storm Trami, forced the closure of much of the city earlier this week. Now the storm is hitting Taiwan with sustained winds of over 100 km/h. (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters)

Severe tropical storm Trami struck Wednesday in heavily populated northern Taiwan, prompting schools and offices to close down as heavy rains triggered landslides and other disruptions throughout the island.

At 5:30 p.m. local time, the Central Weather Bureau said the centre of the storm was located offshore, 100 kilometres northeast of the capital of Taipei, packing sustained winds of 108 km/h with gusts of up to 137 km/h. It was expected to complete its passage of the island's northern coast by midnight, heading westward on a direct course toward the Chinese province of Fujian.

An increase of 10 km/h in sustained wind speed would cause the storm to be upgraded to typhoon status, though forecasters were unsure if that would happen.

Earlier this week, Trami wreaked havoc in the Philippine capital of Manila and in outlying regions, leaving 15 dead, 41 injured and affecting more than 1 million people as floodwaters swamped wide swaths of the densely-populated region. President Benigno Aquino III visited emergency shelters to distribute food packs and cheer up thousands of displaced villagers.

In Taiwan, the storm had dumped 300 millimetres of rain on Taipei by nightfall Wednesday, and close to 500 millimetres in mountainous areas of northwestern Taiwan. With heavy rains expected to continue through most of Thursday, those totals could easily double.

Amid the downpour, a landslide closed the only road to a remote mountain community in Hsinchu county, trapping 70 residents, though authorities said no one was in danger and crews were working to redress the situation.

Other landslides were reported north of Taipei and in the central part of the island.

Late Tuesday government officials ordered schools and offices in Taipei and in some surrounding regions to close because of safety concerns. They also suspended service on the island's high speed rail system, which links Taipei to the southern city of Kaohsiung.

Taiwan's National Fire Agency reported only one injury from the storm, a 33-year-old woman whose motorbike flipped over after hitting a pothole in the Taipei district of Neihu.

The military evacuated more than 1,000 residents from an outlying island believed to be threatened by the storm, as well as 200 residents from the mountain community of Alishan, near Taiwan's geographical centre.