Taiwan issues warnings for severe tropical storm

Taiwan officials issued land and sea warnings on Tuesday for a severe tropical storm, the island’s first this year, with heavy rain and wind gusts up to 90 kph (60 mph) expected before it heads to China.

Although the storm falls one level short of a full-blown typhoon, Taiwan authorities are especially on guard after the island’s worst typhoon in 50 years, also forecast as a relatively weak storm, killed about 700 people in August 2009.

That prompted a cabinet reshuffle as citizens accused the government of reacting too slowly.

The storm dubbed Namtheun, centred 50 km (31 miles) north of Taiwan at 2015 GMT, was expected to reach northern areas of the island by early Wednesday with sustained winds up to 65 kph, the Central Weather Bureau said on its website (www.cwb.gov.tw).

Namtheun will pass over the capital Taipei and the island’s major northern port city Keelung, the weather bureau said. It warned of mudslides, rockfalls and sudden swelling of rivers.

The storm could grow to a category 1 typhoon, the mildest on a 1-5 scale, and reach the coast of southeast China, according to forecasting website Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com).

Typhoons regularly hit China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Japan in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea before weakening over land.