Thousands Evacuated, Army on Standby as Heavy Rain Pounds Taiwan

More than 3,000 people were evacuated from landslide and flood-prone districts in Taiwan today as a rainy season meiyu (plum rain) front continued to inundate the island Saturday, June 17.

In the mountainous Taoyuan District in Kaohsiung County more than 1,500 residents were evacuated as a precaution after 200mm fell overnight and forecasters predicted the rain to intensify during the day. Soldiers assisted with the evacuation.

More people were evacuated after Central Weather Bureau forecasters said the rain would shift to the north during Saturday night and Sunday.

The Defense Ministry said it had 18,000 troops on standby, along with amphibious vehicles, boats, and other equipment.

The Council of Agriculture issued red alerts for 112 landslide prone areas in Taichung City, Nantou County, and Chiayi County, and 293 yellow alerts covering the same counties plus Kaohsiung and Miaoli counties.

As the day progressed, landslides were reported in many areas from Kaohsiung County in the south to Hsinchu County in the northwest. Both the southern and central cross island highways were blocked by landslides and rockfalls, while the Alishan Forest Railway was suspended due to trees and mud covering the tracks.

The Alishan (route 18) Highway was also temporarily blocked by two landslides this morning, but has been reopened after being cleared.

landslide blocks road
A landslide on the Alishan Highway temporarily blocked traffic this morning, Saturday, June 17, 2017. Picture: Directorate General of Highways.

Flights Delayed: Runway Damaged

At Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, the persistent rain caused damage to appear on runway two. Air traffic was reduced to a single runway as repairs were carried out. As of 6:00pm, the runway was still closed and airport authorities expected it to be ready by 7:30pm. Delays were also caused by diversions to landing and take-off flight paths due to bad weather south of the airport.

trees and mud cover rail tracks
Trees and mud cover the track on the Alishan Forest Railway in Chiayi County, Taiwan, June 17, 2017. Picture: United Daily News.

The Central Weather Bureau said today that the intense rain affecting the central and southern parts of Taiwan will shift north overnight to affect the central and northern parts of the island.

Taiwan has been under the influence of the rain front since Wednesday, June 14, and forecasts say the rain will continue until at least Wednesday, June 21.

Flooded homes in Chiayi County
Dongshih Village, Chiayi County: a 95 year-old woman living alone was offered emergency accommodation after floodwaters inundated her home. She thanked the mayor of her village who had brought coastguard and firefighters to assist with the evacuation, but refused to budge. Fortunately, the rain subsided and floodwaters receded during the day. Picture: United Daily News
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