, TAIPEI, July 11 – Taiwan evacuated more than 2,000 tourists on Thursday as the island braced for super typhoon Soulik while Japan’s Okinawa warned residents giant waves of up to 12 metres (40 feet) could hit the archipelago.
The typhoon, packing gusts of up to 227 kilometres (140 miles) per hour, was 790 kilometres east southeast of the island’s Yilan city in the northeast at 0900 GMT, Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said.
“That means trees could be uprooted and roofs ripped off” if the typhoon struck the island without losing strength, a weather forecaster told AFP.
Soulik is moving west northwest towards Taiwan at about 22 kilometres per hour and could narrowly skip or make landfall in the north of the island sometime between late Friday and Saturday morning, the bureau said.
“The public must heighten their vigilance as the typhoon will certainly bring strong winds and heavy rains,” the weather forecaster said.
The Taipei based TVBS news channel said the route evoked painful memories of 1996 when super typhoon Herb lashed the island with powerful winds and heavy rains, leaving 51 dead and 22 missing.
Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau is expected to issue a “land warning” at 1230 GMT, a further warning signal issued when the storm is thought to be 18 hours away from Taiwan.
Authorities evacuated 2,300 tourists from Green Island, off the southeastern city of Taitung, and issued a warning to ships sailing north and east off Taiwan to take special precaution.
The Okinawa weather bureau in Japan warned waves of up to 12 metres and gusts of winds up to 234 kilometres (145 miles) per hour may hit parts of the far southwest of the archipelago.