Typhoon holiday timing causes havoc on Taipei MRT

Scenes of overcrowding comparable to New Year's Eve

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Nanjing Fuxing MRT station as typhoon holiday started Tuesday afternoon (Photo provided by Wu Bing-han).

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The start of the typhoon holiday in Taipei City at 4 p.m. Tuesday led to massive traffic chaos in the Taiwanese capital, with enormous crowds pouring into Mass Rapid Train stations to get home before Typhoon Maria slammed into the island.

The worst of the storm was expected from Tuesday evening until Wednesday morning, as its eye was expected to pass close to Northern Taiwan from east to west in the direction of China.

The government of Taipei City announced at 10 a.m. Tuesday that schools and offices would close at 4 p.m.

However, the timing led to scenes of massive overcrowding, compared by some to New Year’s Eve, when hundreds of thousands of revelers take the MRT to see the Taipei 101 fireworks.

At some locations, lines of waiting passengers even stretched out outside the stations and into the street. Commuters said they had to wait 40 minutes before a train arrived with enough space for them to fit inside, the Central News Agency reported.

Parents complained that because of the chaos, they would be unable to pick up their children on time.

Critics also pointed out that if the city government had decided to give the whole afternoon off, some people would have stayed around to grab lunch before heading home, thus reducing the density of traffic.

While the MRT system was the worst affected, surface traffic also came to a standstill at many intersections as commuters all tried to head home simultaneously.

Whether schools and offices will have to close Wednesday as well, was to be announced around 8 p.m. Tuesday.