Typhoon Morakot is located approximately 90 miles (145 kilometers) southeast of Taipei in Taiwan and is tracking west-northwest, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Morakot has intensified into a Category 2 typhoon over the last 24 hours and is moving at 8 mph (13 kmph) with sustained winds of around 98 mph (157 kmph). According to the JTWC, Morakot is forecast to weaken slightly before making landfall in northern Taiwan as a Category 1 typhoon at around 18:00 UTC (01:00 on August 8, 2009 local time). The storm is then expected to continue to weaken as it exits into the Taiwan Strait before making landfall in China on August 8 as a tropical storm.
The outer bands of the storm are already pounding Taiwan, with tropical-storm force winds and heavy rain affecting all parts of the island. Some 25,000 households have lost power and some minor property damage has been reported but preparations are underway to try and limit damage and disruption. Schools and businesses throughout the island have been closed while authorities cancelled all domestic flights and suspended rail and ferry traffic. Taiwan’s financial markets also closed early and around 300 people have been evacuated from Taoyuan County.
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Morakot is expected to make landfall in the eastern county of Hualien, and to the south of Taipei. Current forecasts indicate Taipei will avoid the storm’s most severe weather but will be subjected to tropical storm-force winds and heavy rain. The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) is warning residents of flooding and mudslides as Morakot is expected to bring up to 1,200 millimeters of rainfall (47 inches) and strong winds over the next couple of days. The CWB added the typhoon’s impact could be prolonged due to its slow forward motion.
Following landfall in Taiwan, Morakot is expected to weaken as it moves into the Taiwan Strait. Current forecasts suggest the storm will veer to the northwest as it exits Taiwan and this motion is likely to see the storm make landfall near the Zhejiang/Fujian Province border as a tropical storm on August 8. Landfall is expected to occur close to the city of Fuzhou in Fujian Province (population of around 6.6 million), prompting officials to evacuate around 22,000 people in the city and the nearby towns of Ningde and Putian.
According to the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters, about 34,000 vessels have been ordered to seek shelter at ports along the Fujian coastline. The provincial government also sent 8.4 million text messages to mobile phone users, warning recipients of the typhoon’s approach. The provincial weather bureau said that Morakot would bring heavy rain and strong winds to coastal regions. The bureau added that waves as high as 6 meters (20 feet) are already hitting the coastal areas of southeast China, and officials warned they could reach up to 9 meters (30 feet) as the storm nears the coast.
Elsewhere, around 220 flights were cancelled in the southern Japanese island prefectures of Okinawa and Kagoshima as the typhoon moved through the region, affecting about 40,000 passengers.
Sources: Joint Typhoon Warning Center, WSI, Central News Agency, Xinhua News Agency, Taipei Times, Reuters News, Platts Commodity News, Agence France Presse, Associated Press
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