Taiwan issues typhoon warning

TAIPEI: Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau on Sunday warned that Typhoon Parma may be approaching the island, bringing torrential rain, after battering the northern Philippines.

The bureau said the weather system, packing winds of up to 119 kilometres per hour (71.4 miles per hour) and gusts of up to 155 kph, was expected to bring strong winds and rain of up to 800 millimetres (32 inches) as it made a slow approach north.

A bureau official told AFP however that the weather system had made little progress towards Taiwan in last few hours and it's strength remained unchanged.

The typhoon was 300 kilometres south-west of Oluanpi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, at 1000 GMT and was predicted to circle the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan and the Philippines.

"The typhoon is forecast to move along the (northern) track until Monday night and then turn southwest," the official said.

"In the next two to three days, the typhoon may move slowly and hover around the Bashi Channel and, after that, how it moves needs further observation," he said.

He urged residents of Taiwan's southern Hengchun area to take precautions against powerful winds and downpours.

In an apparent reaction to the criticism of the government's handling of the worst typhoon in half a century and its aftermath in August, Taiwanese authorities have evacuated more than 1,800 people, some of them forced, from the remote mountainous areas.

The evacuation in four central and southern counties started Saturday following warnings from the Central Weather Bureau that the typhoon may trigger landslides.

Among them were 300 villagers from Laichi, a village on the scenic Alishan mountain area in southern Chiayi County, a rescue official said.

"This morning the last 18 people were ordered to leave their homes," the official told AFP.

In the southern Kaohsiung County, epicentre of deadly Typhoon Morakat in August, about 740 people have been evacuated, some of them by helicopter, another rescue official said.

The defence ministry ordered the deployment of some 200 soldiers from elite units in some remote villages while putting 35,000 others in standby.

The government came under strong criticism for an alleged late and ineffective reaction to Typhoon Morakot, which claimed more than 600 lives and plunged President Ma Ying-jeou into his worst political crisis since taking office.