Typhoon swoops over Taiwan but spares highly populated areas

Flood waters from Typhoon Tembin reached 9 feet high in the town of Hengchun, overturning buses and uprooting trees. Forecasters warn it could return.

A man walks down a lane of water damaged furniture from heavy rains brought by Typhoon Tembin in Pingtung county, Taiwan, Friday. The typhoon crossed over southern Taiwan on Friday morning, causing flooding and wind damage but largely sparing the island's heavily populated areas.

A typhoon crossed over southern Taiwan on Friday morning, causing flooding and wind damage but largely sparing the island's heavily populated areas.

Flood waters from Typhoon Tembin reached 3 meters (9 feet) high in the town of Hengchun in Pingtung county, and armored vehicles rescued several dozen people from their flooded homes. Television pictures from Hengchun showed empty buses overturned by raging waters and streets littered with uprooted trees and pieces of mangled furniture.

Overflowing river

Troops were also deployed in Kaohsiung county to rescue villagers stranded by the overflowing Laonung River. Winds measuring close to 155 kph (96 mph) toppled trees and blew out windows in the area, but no casualties have been reported.

Attention in the Western Pacific was turning to Typhoon Bolaven, which was approaching southern Japan. The storm had winds of 144 kph (89 mph) Friday and was likely to strengthen, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. It could hit Okinawa on Sunday with maximum winds near the eye of 180 kph (112 mph).

Taiwanese authorities, mindful of a devastating typhoon that took 700 lives three years ago, had arranged evacuations from mountainous, landslide-prone areas ahead of Tembin and readied thousands of troops for rescue operations, but for the most part, the troops were not needed.

Heading for mainland China

The typhoon made landfall about 5 a.m. and swooped over the island, returning to sea by late morning. Forecasters say it appears to be heading for mainland China but warn it could return as a weaker storm to dump more rain across Taiwan's southern agricultural heartland.

The impact of Tembin in the heavily populated areas of northern Taiwan was extremely limited. Businesses and schools in Taipei were operating normally, and flights at the capital's two airports were unaffected.

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