Typhoon Saola weakened to a tropical storm today after at least one person died in Taiwan, where winds and rain also knocked down trees, flooded homes and forced authorities to shut financial markets, offices and schools.
A policeman on patrol in New Taipei City fell into a river after suffering a heart attack and drowned, local broadcaster TVBS reported. Taiwan’s cabinet confirmed the death in a statement without providing more details.
Saola, which earlier killed 23 people in the Philippines, is the third storm to hit Taiwan this year. In 2009, Typhoon Morakot killed more than 600 people, prompting Premier Liu Chao- shiuan to resign and sending President Ma Ying-jeou’s approval rating to a record low of 16 percent.
The weather bureau downgraded Saola to a tropical storm at 2:30 p.m. local time. At 3:15 p.m., it was centered 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Taipei with winds as fast as 137 kilometers per hour, falling from 155 kilometers three hours earlier. The storm was moving north-northwest at 12 kilometers to 16 kilometers an hour, the weather bureau said.
In Taipei, the weather bureau reported 122 centimeters (48 inches) of rainfall from midnight to 3:15 p.m. local time. TVBS showed images of cars crushed by fallen trees and residences inundated by flood water in New Taipei City. The army evacuated residents from parts of Yilan county and also delivered food, the broadcaster reported.
Agricultural and public infrastructural losses have reached about NT$123 million ($4.1 million), the Council of Agriculture said.
Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd, China Airlines Ltd, and China Eastern Airlines Corp. canceled some flights arriving at and departing Taipei today, according to the Taoyuan International Airport website.
In the Philippines, Saola forced more than 8,000 people into evacuation centers after the storm, also called Gener locally, lashed northern and central parts of the country, the government said July 31. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council today raised the death toll from Saola to 23 from an earlier report of 12 deaths and said that another 21 people had been injured.
In Hong Kong, the typhoon left Wang Dan, an exiled 1989 Tiananmen Square dissident from China, stranded at the city’s airport, Radio Television Hong Kong reported. Wang was returning to Taiwan from the U.S. via Hong Kong when the storm prevented his flight from taking off, according the report.