Drenched once, Taiwan braces for return of tropical cyclone Tembin

Officials warn Tembin could come back after causing havoc in south the first time around

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 4:59am


Taiwanese weather forecasters warned tropical cyclone Tembin could hit the island a second time this week after unleashing the worst downpour in more than a century on the island's southern-most tip.

Tembin swept across southern Taiwan on Friday before moving out to sea, where it was packing winds gusting up to 101 kilometres an hour.

"There is roughly a 50 per cent risk Tembin could affect Taiwan again on Monday or Tuesday depending on its path," said forecaster Lin Bin-yu, from Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau, which classified Tembin as a severe tropical storm.

The Hong Kong Observatory and mainland forecasters classified it as a typhoon.

Tembin's course hinged partly on Typhoon Bolaven, which was not expected to head directly to Taiwan, Lin said. Bolaven was moving towards southern Japan and is predicted to hit Okinawa this afternoon.

Tembin unleashed torrential rain in southern Pingtung county that was described as the worst downpour in more than a century. Weather bureau data showed Pingtung as a whole had received 724 millimetres of rain since Wednesday, while the township of Hengchun saw rainfall of more than 600 millimetres on Friday alone.

"In Hengchun, it's a record amount of rainfall since 1896," said Hsieh Ming-gung, a forecaster with the weather bureau. Hengchun has a population of about 30,000 and forms Taiwan's southern-most tip.

Television footage showed pedestrians in Pingtung walking through ankle-deep water, while workers removed debris left by flooding. Young military conscripts walked from house to house to help residents put their homes back in order.

Tembin left five people injured, including two firefighters, according to Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Centre.

The Taiwanese government, which was criticised heavily for its perceived passivity when Typhoon Morakot struck in 2009, killing nearly 700 people, put 50,000 soldiers on standby in order to ensure speedy rescue in case of a major disaster.

"Civilian and military authorities should coordinate their post-typhoon efforts to ensure that the local people can resume their normal lives as soon as possible," Premier Sean Chen said.

The weather bureau lifted its warning earlier yesterday as Tembin was downgraded to a tropical storm that was slowly moving away, but warned of more rains in the south.

On the mainland, Fujian officials recalled all 39,649 vessels back to port and suspended ferry services to Taiwan, Xinhua reported, citing the local flood control department.

Tembin could also bring Fujian and neighbouring Guangdong winds of seven to nine on the Beaufort scale (28 to 47 knots, or near gale to severe gale) in the 24 hours to to 2pm today, the China Meteorological Administration said.