Mudslide fears prompt evacuations in S. Taiwan following heavy rain

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Torrential rain produced mudslides in Kaohsiung 

Torrential rain produced mudslides in Kaohsiung  (CNA photo)

Over 3,000 people remained under evacuation orders from mountainous areas of Kaohsiung City Saturday amid fears of mudslides, after much of southern Taiwan was hit by downpours from a plum rain front the previous day.

As of 6 a.m., a total of 3,485 Kaohsiung residents had been evacuated, including 1,056 from Namaxia District, 842 from Liugui District and 758 from Taoyuan District, according to the city's Civil Affairs Bureau.

The city, which has set up a disaster response unit to deal with the rain damage, said it will wait until landslide warnings for the affected areas are lifted before assessing whether it is safe for the evacuated residents to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, the Pingtung County government has estimated that agricultural losses from the rain will exceed NT$8 million (US$265,854), after extensive damage was reported to the area's rice, bitter melon and luffa crops.

The extreme weather also caused some 5,000 Pingtung households to lose electricity a day earlier, which the state-owned Taiwan Power Co. said it had partially restored as of the following morning.

Pingtung reported some of Taiwan's highest rainfall totals, with several locations surpassing 600 millimeters Friday. The county's Chunri Township recorded Taiwan's highest three-day total, with over 900 mm of precipitation since Thursday, according to the Central Weather Bureau.

A total of 14 locations in Pingtung -- four townships and 10 villages -- remained on Saturday under red alert for landslides, which are issued by the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau when measured rainfall exceeds an area's warning threshold for debris flows.
Nationally, 245 locations in Nantou, Pingtung and Chiayi counties and Kaohsiung were issued yellow warnings for landslides, indicating that forecast rainfall will exceed an area's warning threshold.

In terms of traffic impact, a portion of Taiwan's Southern Cross-Island Highway between Liyuan and Xiangyang remained closed Saturday due to a road collapse, but was expected to reopen early Sunday, according to the Directorate General of Highways.

Looking ahead, the weather bureau has forecast less precipitation over the weekend, as the system that has caused the heavy rain moves south into the Bashi Channel.

However, from Monday afternoon, the front is expected to move back north, bringing showers and thunderstorms to much of Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday, the CWB said. (By Cheng Chi-feng and Matthew Mazzetta)