Taipei: An eight-year-old girl and her mother died after being swept out to sea off Taiwan as Typhoon Soudelor bore down on the island, forcing thousands to flee, officials said Friday.
Troops evacuated villagers from remote mountain regions in the east of the island and helped secure their homes as rains and surging waves battered the coast.
More than 2,000 people, many of them tourists, had already been evacuated from Taiwan’s outlying islands.
The typhoon is set to make a direct hit on the east coast in early hours of Saturday before moving across central Taiwan to Fujian province in mainland China.
Billed as the biggest typhoon of the year earlier in the week, Soudelor has since weakened but authorities warned it may strengthen again before making landfall.
The young girl and her mother became the first casualties of the impending storm after they were swept out to sea in Taiwan’s eastern Yilan county on Thursday.
The dead girl’s twin was also missing in the same incident, while another nine-year-old girl was injured but survived.
Troops helped move residents from aboriginal villages in the eastern counties Yilan and Hualien on Friday afternoon as well as reinforcing their houses, which will bear the brunt of the storm.
Riverside aboriginal communities in New Taipei City were also due to be evacuated Friday evening.
Much of the island will be lashed by torrential rain and by Friday afternoon 140 millimetres (5.5 inches) had already fallen near Taoyuan City in the northwest.
Offices and schools were shut down Friday, mainly in the north and east.
More than 40 international flights out of Taiwan were cancelled and ferry services to outlying islands were suspended.
Packing maximum wind speeds of 173 kilometres per hour (108 miles per hour) near its centre, Soudelor was 280 kilometres southeast of Hualien county Friday evening.
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