Five dead as typhoon batters Taiwan


Torrential rain triggered landslides and flooding across Taiwan today, killing five people and injuring 15, as Typhoon Saola skirted the island's east and north coasts and headed towards China.

The military helped more than 1,000 people flee from the less-populated mountainous north and east of the island, while in main cities including the capital, Taipei, most businesses, schools and financial markets were shut for the day.

About 100 domestic and international flights were cancelled, train services disrupted and roads closed.

The National Fire Agency said that as of mid-afternoon, five people had been killed, including a policeman who drowned in a swollen river, and 15 injured. Two people were missing.

Three of Taiwan's top technology exporters, chipmakers TSMC and Nanya Tech, and LCD panel maker AU Optronics, said none of their facilities were affected and they were running as normal.

Saola briefly made landfall on Taiwan's east coast early today, weakening to a tropical storm as it turned back out to sea and then moved northwest, skirting the island's north coast and heading for China.

Authorities there have issued warnings for it and a separate storm, Typhoon Damrey, which is expected to pass north of China's financial hub of Shanghai on Friday but which is also expected to weaken to a tropical storm.

China's meteorological agency issued typhoon warnings on Thursday for the southern and eastern provinces of Fujian and Jiangsu.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told authorities to be on the highest alert.

Wen, who usually leaves more junior leaders to oversee arrangements before storms, told authorities to step up preparations and "put people's lives first", the official Xinhua news agency said.