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Thousands evacuated as typhoon slams into Taiwan, killing 1

world Updated: Aug 18, 2007 09:30 IST

AP
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A powerful typhoon slammed into Taiwan on Saturday, washing out roads, uprooting trees and killing at least one person.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of thousands of people around the island as electricity supplies faltered and rains battered already saturated rivers valleys, mountainsides and urban landscapes.
Typhoon Sepat _ by far the most powerful storm to hit the island this year _ made landfall at 5:40 am (2140 GMT Friday) near the eastern city of Hualien.

The storm _ the third major tropical system to hit Taiwan in the past two weeks _ cut an east-west swathe, leaving overturned cars, disrupted electricity grids and deserted streets in its wake. At least one person was killed in Hualien, when a car overturned and plummeted into a steep valley.

South of that city, authorities ordered the evacuation of more than 1,000 people from the coastal community of Taidung, where electricity supplies were cut to 14,000 homes _ a fraction of the 70,000 homes without power in eastern Taiwan.

The government warned of rising water levels in 11 major rivers. TV footage showed brown, swirling waters surrounding a major bridge in Hualien, and surging waters of a Taipei river with only treetops visible along its banks.

After making landfall, the storm weakened with sustained winds of 155 kph (95 mph) _ down from 184 kph (114 mph), the Central Weather Bureau said.

Sepat will continue to lose strength, but the storm could deluge western and southern Taiwan with torrential rains as it moves west toward China, the bureau warned.

Other evacuations were ordered to stay away from mountainous areas in Taoyuan and Taipei counties in the north, and Nantou county in the center of the island.
All domestic air and train service was halted and some international flights _ including service to Hong Kong and Japan _ was canceled.

If Sepat stays on its current course, it will leave Taiwan late on Saturday and head for the heavily populated Chinese coastal province of Fujian.

Sepat is the Malay word for a freshwater fish.