published Friday, August 24th, 2012

Typhoon Tembin batters Taiwan with rain, wind

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A powerful typhoon struck southern Taiwan on Friday, toppling trees, overturning vehicles and dumping rains that swelled rivers and flooded homes and farmlands.

No casualties were reported as Typhoon Tembin swooped its way across Pingtung and Kaohsiung counties, after making landfall around 5 a.m. (2100 GMT Thursday). By late morning it was back out at sea, apparently headed for the China coast, though forecasters warned it could return — albeit weakened — to dump more rain across Taiwan’s southern agricultural heartland.

The impact of the storm in the heavily populated areas of northern Taiwan was extremely limited. Businesses and schools in Taipei were operating normally, and flights at the capital’s two airports were unaffected.

With Tembin gradually weakening, attention began to turn to Typhoon Bolaven, which threatens to hit southern Japan over the weekend. Packing winds of 144 kph (89 mph), the storm may further intensify, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, and it could hit Okinawa on Sunday.

Mindful of a devastating typhoon that took 700 lives three years ago, Taiwanese authorities took precautions a day before Tembin hit, evacuating more than 3,000 people from mountainous, landslide-prone areas, and putting thousands of troops on standby, ordering them to ready small boats and amphibious vehicles to rescue stranded residents.

For the most part they were not needed, but in the Pingtung town of Hengchun, where waters reached 3 meters (9 feet) high in some places, armored vehicles were deployed to rescue several dozen people from their flooded homes.

Television pictures from Hengchun showed empty buses overturned by raging waters, and streets littered with uprooted trees and pieces of mangled furniture.

Troops were also deployed in Kaohsiung county to rescue stranded villagers after the Laonung River overflowed its banks.

In Taitung county to the east, winds measuring close to 155 kph (96 mph) toppled trees and blew out windows across a wide swath of territory.

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