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Torrential rains batter Taiwan ahead of Typhoon Saola; at least 14 dead in Philippines
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) ¯¯¯ Torrential rains from an approaching typhoon battered eastern Taiwan on Wednesday after killing at least 14 people and displacing 154,000 in the Philippines.
At least one death in Taiwan was reported. Local media said a falling tree killed a woman near the southern city of Kaohsiung.
Typhoon Saola was about 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of the coastal city of Hualien in the afternoon and had sustained winds of 137 kph (86 mph) and gusts of 173 kph (109 mph). It was moving slowly but growing stronger and was expected to continue to strengthen.
Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau predicts it will skirt the island's northeast tip early Thursday afternoon.
Parts of northeastern Taiwan already reported rainfall of close to 900mm (30 inches) by Wednesday afternoon, while the CWB said about one-third of that amount had fallen in suburban Taipei. It could dump more than 1,500 mm (59 inches) of rain in northern Taiwan before moving westward toward the Chinese coast late Thursday.
A major east coast highway was closed because of the typhoon and several hundred people were evacuated from low-lying areas, as mudslides blocked roads and choked off transportation. A river in Ilan county flooded its banks, inundating hundreds of acres of nearby rice paddies.
The Defense Ministry mobilized 48,000 soldiers to help mitigate the storm's impact, dispatching many to help hard-pressed farmers try to save threatened fruit and vegetable harvests.
Dozens of flights were cancelled at Taipei's main international airport, and the city was expected to come to a virtual standstill Thursday.
The typhoon left at least 14 people dead in the Philippines since Sunday and caused 154,000 to flee from their homes.
Fierce rain and wind, compounded by high tide, swamped a Manila boulevard with garbage-laden water from Manila Bay and forced the U.S. Embassy to close Wednesday. Manila schools were also closed due to sporadic flooding and strong winds.