Military braces for Typhoon Lekima

The disaster response center, under the command of Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming, was established at 8:30 a.m. and is coordinating with local governments for disaster preparedness and disaster relief work, the MND said in a statement. (NOWnews)
The disaster response center, under the command of Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming, was established at 8:30 a.m. and is coordinating with local governments for disaster preparedness and disaster relief work, the MND said in a statement. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Ministry of National Defense (MND) has set up a disaster response center and placed more than 30,000 troops on standby in preparation for the impact of severe Typhoon Lekima, which is expected to skirt northern Taiwan late Thursday through Friday.

The disaster response center, under the command of Chief of the General Staff Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴), was established at 8:30 am and is coordinating with local governments for disaster preparedness and disaster relief work, the MND said in a statement.

About 33,000 soldiers, among them marines and special forces, and more than 4,200 military vehicles and equipment, including Amphibious Assault Vehicles, rubber boats, generators and water pumps, are either on standby or already in those areas expected to be hit hardest.

Based on a series of notices from the MND, disaster response efforts are focused in Taipei and northern areas such as Keelung and Yilan, where troops filled and delivered 1,000 sandbags to residents in coastal towns.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, Lekima was located at sea about 350 kilometers east of Taipei, moving at a speed of 18 kilometers per hour in a northwesterly direction, according to data from the Central Weather Bureau.

It was packing maximum sustained winds of 191 kph, with gusts of up to 234 kph, the bureau said.

The eye of the storm is forecast to skirt northeastern Taiwan as it moves northward between late Thursday night and Friday, when the typhoon will be closest to Taiwan, the CWB said, expecting extremely heavy rain in western and northeastern areas.

Meanwhile, in response to a magnitude 6.0 quake Thursday morning, the epicenter of which was roughly 36.5 km offshore from Yilan County, the military has been in contact with local officials in mountainous areas to check if assistance is needed in case of landslides or with evacuations, the MND said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was briefed by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and security agencies regarding the aftermath of the temblor and activated the emergency response mechanism in preparation for possible disaster relief efforts.

Tsai posted a message on her Facebook account reassuring the public that the military, police and fire departments are in control of the situation.

By Emerson Lim