Chebi skirts southeast Taiwan; ten missing in strong winds

The China Post staff and agencies

At least ten people were missing as tropical storm Chebi skirted southeastern Taiwan and outlying Penghu Island yesterday, police and weathermen said. Chebi brushed southeastern Taiwan in the morning and headed to Penghu before leaving for the southern province of Fujian in mainland China, weathermen said. The strong winds and heavy rains brought by Chebi forced local airlines companies to cancel many domestic flights. The typhoon also caused power outages in part of Pingtung and Taitung counties as well as Penghu Island, resulting in temporary blackout in some 10,000 households. A fishing boat from Pingtung county in southern Taiwan was reported to have lost mobility while fishing in waters between Taiwan and the Philippines. Seven crew members, including the boat skipper, were missing, police said. Another fishermen was reported missing from Penghu, while two other people in southeastern Taiwan were also missing, police said. Packing winds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) an hour, Chebi was centered in the ocean about 100 kilometers (62 miles) southwest of Kaohsiung, the Central Weather Bureau said in a statement. Kaohsiung is about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of the capital, Taipei. Kaohsiung’s international port, one of the world’s largest, remained open. But flights to many cities in southern Taiwan and the outlying islands were canceled, the bureau said in a statement. Chebi was moving northwest toward mainland China at about 25 kilometers (16 miles) an hour and was expected to hit the southeastern city of Fuzhou by Sunday, the bureau said. Weathermen warned of possible floods caused by Chebi despite the fact that it had already left Taiwan. Many residents in southern Taiwan took to the beaches to watch high waves crash against the coast, but Taipei remained unaffected as the annual Dragon Boat Day Festival opened despite the heavy winds. President Chen Shui-bian made an inspection tour of an inter-department disaster relief center at the National Fire Administration (NFA) to show his concern about damage caused by typhoon Chebi.

Chen said he appreciates the devotion of staff of various government disaster relief agencies in their efforts to help minimize typhoon-related damage and human casualties. He reminded relevant central government agencies and local-level governments that although the typhoon was gradually moving away from Taiwan, it might still bring heavy rain to the island.

“We should pay heed to the possibility of flooding in low-lying areas after the typhoon,” Chen said.

The president also ordered relevant government agencies to pool their resources and join forces with the Philippines to rescue the Taiwan fishing boat, which had lost contact since sending out a distress call in northern Philippine waters Friday evening.

Chebi was the second typhoon crossing Taiwan this year. Some 3,000 mainland Chinese fishermen and laborers took shelter in fishing boats anchored at seaports around the island because of the typhoon.