Thousands evacuated as storm strikes Taiwan

Taiwanese authorities evacuated thousands of people, cancelled hundreds of flights and closed schools Wednesday as tropical storm Talim pounded Taiwan, officials said.

The storm sparked rainfall up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) in the south and forecasters from the Central Weather Bureau have warned that at least twice as much may yet be on the way.

"Even though it is not expected to landfall, the storm still may introduce heavy rains and inflict casualties and damage. The public must by no means relax their vigilance until Friday," a weatherman told AFP.

In the southern Kaohsiung city, which received much of the rainfall, schools and offices were closed. Nearby more than 2,000 villagers were evacuated from the mountainous areas prone to mudslides, with a further 3,500 evacuated island-wide.

A total of 247 domestic and three international flights were axed while all shipping services to and from the offshore islands were halted.

South-bound rail transportation linking Kaohsiung with the southeastern Taitung county was interrupted.

At 1000 GMT, the centre of the tropical storm was 190 kilometres (117.8 miles) west-southwest of the capital Taipei city.

With a radius of 150 kilometres (93 miles) and packing gusts up to 83 kilometres per hour, the storm was moving northeast at 41 kilometres per hour, the Central Weather Bureau said.

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