Sandbags are prepared ahead of Typhoon Talim in a landmark building Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan September 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu(reuters_tickers)
By Faith Hung and Ryan Woo
TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan issued a warning to ships and airlines cancelled some flights on Wednesday as the island braced for Typhoon Talim, which was expected to hit cities including the capital Taipei, before hurtling towards China potentially as a super typhoon.
Talim was expected to gain in strength as it sweeps towards Taiwan's northern cities, lashing them with strong wind and heavy rain, the Central Weather Bureau said.
The brunt of the storm would be felt later on Wednesday and on Thursday, when it was expected to slam into the north and northeast with maximum sustained wind speeds of 137 km per hour (85 mph) and gusts of up to 173 km per hour (107 mph), the bureau said.
"Typhoon Talim has been changing course and is not entirely predictable. It's been expected to hit Taiwan directly, but its trajectory has altered further northward and eastward," said Premier William Lai.
"But at this point our emergency operation centre has not lowered its level of alert," he added.
It had not yet been decided whether the Taiwan government would close financial markets, companies and schools on Thursday.
China Airlines and EVA Airways, Taiwan's two largest carriers, said they would cancel some international flights later on Wednesday.
Formosa Petrochemical Corp, Taiwan's second-biggest oil supplier, said it had prepared to close its supply port if necessary.
Typhoons are a seasonal routine for Taiwan, but the island has stepped up preparations since Typhoon Morakat in 2009. Morakat was the deadliest typhoon to hit the island in recorded history, killing close to 700 people, most in landslides.
MAINLAND ON ALERT
In mainland China, more than 200,000 people in Fujian and Zhejiang provinces have been evacuated, China's official Xinhua news agency said.
As early as Thursday night, Talim could make landfall along Zhejiang's northern coast as a strong typhoon, packing gusts of up to 48 metres per second (173 kph), the China Meteorological Administration said.
The agency maintained an orange warning - the second-highest in a four-tier colour-coded system for severe weather.
Talim could strengthen into a super typhoon with winds of 52 metres per second (187 kph) in the late afternoon on Thursday.
The railway bureau in Shanghai, north of Zhejiang, said it had stopped selling tickets for hundreds of trains.
The storm is expected to turn northeast towards Japan on Friday, while another heads towards southern China and Vietnam.
Tropical Storm Doksuri is expected to intensify to a strong typhoon and brush past the southern coast of Hainan province late on Thursday or early Friday.
In face of the twin typhoons, provinces in their way have been on high alert for heavy rainfall, storm surges, flash floods and landslides.
As many as half a million people may need to be evacuated if the storm intensifies, according to Chinese media reports.
The Fujian meteorological agency said it would maintain its yellow alert for Talim, the second-lowest in the four-tier warning system.
Hainan has suspended trains in and out of the island province over the next few days, while ships and offshore workers have been told to seek shelter.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said flights to and from Sanya, the southernmost city on Hainan island, may be affected on Friday.
Doksuri, known as Maring in the Philippines, had dumped heavy rain on Manila and nearby provinces earlier this week, causing widespread flooding and landslides.
(Additional reporting by Cheng Fang in BEIJING; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Kim Coghill)