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Typhoon Morakot nears Taiwan

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Storm about 200 km (124 miles) southeast of Taipei, CNN meteorologist says
  • NEW: Mudslides and landslides occur already Friday morning
  • NEW: Airlines cancel flights; schools, government offices, stock exchange closed
  • Taiwan is vulnerable to flash flooding, mudslides because mountains are near sea
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(CNN) -- Typhoon Morakot bore down on Taiwan Friday, packing 89 mph (143 kph) winds and threatening to soak the entire island when it makes landfall Saturday morning, Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said.

A man fights against strong winds in Hsintien, Taipei county, Taiwan, on Friday.

A man fights against strong winds in Hsintien, Taipei county, Taiwan, on Friday.

As of 10 a.m. Friday (2 a.m. GMT), wind gusts were reaching 112 mph, and Morakot, a medium-strength typhoon, was moving west-northwest at 14 mph en route to landfall, the agency said.

Already, mudslides and landslides were occurring on the land, as airlines canceled flights, and government offices, schools and the Taiwan Stock Exchange closed for the day, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.

The storm was centered about 124 miles (200 km) southeast of Taipei and could wind up directly over the capital, said CNN meteorologist Kevin Corriveau.

He predicted its impact would be massive. "This storm has already dumped about 400 millimeters (16 inches) of rain in the central and southern part of the island, and they're still expecting another 500 (20 inches) to 800 millimeters (32 inches) of rain over the next 24 to 48 hours," he said. Video Watch how the storm is affecting life on the island »

Drought in recent months has severely affected the area, leaving the ground so hard that it cannot absorb the rainfall, Corriveau said.

However, the island tends to prepare well for typhoons, Corriveau added. "They take it very seriously," Corriveau said. "Just like Cuba is very good at handling hurricanes, Taiwan is very good at handling typhoons."

On Thursday, Taiwanese Premier Liu Chao-shiuan examined the island's emergency operation center and asked all personnel to stay on high alert over the next day, with the typhoon forecast to "affect all regions of Taiwan," according to CNA.

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Taiwan and eastern China are particularly vulnerable to flash flooding and mudslides because of the proximity of the mountains to the sea.

Once it hits land, Morakot is expected to weaken to tropical storm strength, the Central Weather Bureau reported.

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