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Taiwan gears up for Typhoon Matmo

Thousands of tourists have evacuated the outlying islands of Taiwan as the territory prepares for its first major tropical storm of the year. Typhoon Matmo is expected to make landfall on the northeast coast early Wednesday, and is currently packing gusts of 173 kilometres per hour.

TAIPEI: Thousands of tourists have evacuated the outlying islands of Taiwan as the territory prepares for its first major tropical storm of the year.

In Taipei's Neihu district office, local authorities have prepared thousands of sandbags for residents to collect and use in case of flooding. Dozens of water pumps are also in place for deployment in the event of flash floods.

Neihu district houses one the island's major science industrial parks. The park is a stronghold of the information technology, telecom and biotech industries -- including major companies such as FoxConn, Compel and Light On.

Local authorities and residents are not taking any chances.

Chao Kuo Hua, Section Chief of the Neihu District Office, said: "In terms of typhoon prevention, we'll provide sandbags if people need them. If they experience minor flooding, we also have 10 water pumps ready for their use. "

While Neihu district is not considered a low-lying area, Typhoon Matmo is expected to bring heavy torrential rain over the next two days -- hence, preparations are in place to ensure that local residents are kept safe.

Hung Ching Chuan, captain of the Taipei City Fire Department in Neihu District, said: "In terms of rescue equipments, we have speed boats, rubber boats, life vests, and diving gears. In the face of natural disasters, we have various equipment like chain saws and cutters to cut through impediments."

For the moment, Taipei is experiencing some drizzle, but winds are starting to pick up. It is the eastern and central parts of Taiwan that are likely to bear the brunt of the typhoon.

The Central Weather Bureau has warned of heavy torrential rain, especially in the mountainous areas of Yilan, Hualien and Taitung counties. Yilan, for instance, could have up to 1,000 millimetres of rain before the storm blows over -- almost half of Taiwan's average annual rainfall a year. The weather bureau has also warned residents of possible landslides.

The typhoon is expected to make landfall on the island's northeast coast early Wednesday. 

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