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Typhoon swipes Taiwan; shuts schools, businesses
Updated: 2004-10-25 15:37

Howling winds and torrential rain lashed Taiwan on Monday as a rare autumn typhoon bore down on the island's eastern shore, forcing schools and businesses in Taipei and other regions to close.

Gusts of wind from Typhoon Nock-Ten topple a Taipei motorcyclist on October 25, 2004. Strong winds and heavy rain lashed Taiwan on Monday as Typhoon Nock-Ten bore down on the island's eastern shore, forcing schools and businesses in Taipei and other regions to close. [Reuters]

There were no immediate reports of casualties, though a 54-year-old fisherman was missing after his small raft flipped over in high waves off the northeastern coast of Ilan on Sunday morning, said an official at the disaster recovery centre.

Typhoon Nock-Ten, with sustained winds of up to 145 km (90 miles) per hour, was moving north along Taiwan's eastern coast with its eye about 120 km (62 miles) offshore over the Pacific Ocean at 0300 GMT, said the weather bureau.

With gusts of 180 km (112 miles) per hour whipping around high-rises in Taipei, some residents thought an earthquake had struck, forcing the weather bureau to issue a clarification that it was only strong winds that were swaying buildings.

"You can feel it shaking a little bit when wind gusts hit, but it should be okay," said a security guard at a 10-storey office building in Taipei. "The front door was open a crack and you can hear the wind howling in."

Taiwan, which lies on a seismically active stretch of the Pacific Basin, is prone to typhoons and tropical storms though a typhoon this late in the year is unusual.

At least 52 people have been killed by storms this year, with another 28 listed as missing, according to government data.

Many of those killed died in landslides or were swept away by flash floods.

Up to 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) of rain is expected to be dumped on some mountainous areas in the north, prone to deadly mudslides due to soil loosened by over-development. Much of Taiwan has been drenched by hours of rain, with flooding seen in some cities.

Waves at least 14 m (46 feet) high were pounding the coast, forcing Taiwan's second-largest port, Keelung, to close. Some flights were also cancelled because of the storm, which is affecting much of the island.

"The typhoon is moving north, sticking to the eastern coast. So wind and rain will strengthen significantly," the bureau's forecaster, Tsai Fu-dien, told a news conference.

Nock-Ten was spinning north at 20 km (12 miles) per hour and is expected to turn east towards Japan's southern islands, the Taiwan weather bureau said.

"We estimate the typhoon will gradually leave Taiwan early tomorrow and be out of Taiwan waters by noon," said Tsai.

The government had issued land and sea warnings and urged residents in Taiwan's north and east to be on alert for torrential rain, landslides and flashfloods.

Businesses and schools in Taipei and the northern and eastern regions were closed on Monday due to Nock-Ten, which means bird in Laotian.

The shopping mall in the world's tallest building, Taipei 101, will be closed until 3 pm (0700 GMT). The 508-metre (1,667-feet) tower was built to withstand the strongest typhoon in a 100-year cycle, or gale force winds of more than 60 metres a second (216 km/h).

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