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At least two dead as Typhoon Morakot slams into Taiwan

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Taipei_(dpa) _ Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan Friday, leaving at least two persons dead, four missing and four foreign ships grounded off Taiwan's coast.

A woman walking in Keelung, northern Taiwan, was swept into the sea and drowned, and a woman cyclist drowned after winds swept her and her bicycle into a flooded ditch.

Four fishermen are listed as missing after their fishing boats overturned in choppy seas and they fell overboard, local television reports said.

Dozens of Taiwanese were injured after being hit by falling objects or when their motorbikes were blown over, according to the Broadcasting Corporation of China said.

The typhoon also grounded four foreign ships, two from Cambodia, one from Indonesia and one from the Marshall Islands, the Transport Ministry said.

President Ma Ying-jeou warned the public to remain on guard as the rainfall may continue and increase. He urged islanders to stay home to prevent accidents outdoors.

Morakot, the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan this year, formed over the Pacific Ocean earlier this week. It brought strong winds and torrential rains to Taiwan Thursday and Friday as it charged towards Taiwan.

By 10 pm (1400 GMT) Friday, the eye of the typhoon was 40 kilometres south-east of Hualien on the east coast.

Moving at 11 kilometres per hour (kph) in a north-easterly direction, it was packing centre winds of 144 kph and gusts of 180 kph.

If it maintains its course and speed, Morakot is expected to make landfall early Saturday, and then cross the Taiwan Strait and slam into China's south-east coast Saturday night or Sunday morning, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Morakot however is expected to weaken after crossing Taiwan.

The typhoon cut off power to about half a million homes and paralyzed Taiwan's road and air traffic.

On Friday, 144 domestic flights and 255 international flights were canceled while several takeoffs were delayed.

Taiwan has declared Friday a "typhoon holiday" to prevent typhoon-related accidents. Several counties and cities said they will continue to have a typhoon holiday Saturday despite Morakot's expected departure. dpa dc ls im mga

Deutsche Presse Agentur
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