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Taiwan shuts schools, cancels flights as Typhoon Maria approaches

Maria will likely hit the north of Taiwan the hardest with downpours up to 500 mm forecast in some areas.

Taiwan has shut down schools and offices and cancelled flights as approaching Typhoon Maria is expected to cause landslides and flash floods.

The Central Weather Bureau said on Tuesday that Maria will likely hit the north of Taiwan the hardest from late Tuesday to early Wednesday with downpours up to 500mm forecast in some areas.

Taiwanese authorities announced that offices and schools would close on Tuesday afternoon in five cities, including Yilan, where strong waves have started to pound the shore.

Local television footage showed farmers in Yilan rushing to their fields to harvest scallions, the county's most famous produce.

Fishermen in coastal Keeling also brought in their catch and secured their boats before the storm, one day after dozens of ferry services to outlying islands were cancelled.

Taiwan's UNI Air cancelled about 70 domestic flights on Tuesday, while two other airlines have cancelled flights to the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific said it has cancelled over a dozen flights between Hong Kong and Taipei, as well as from Hong Kong to Okinawa on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Premier William Lai warned local authorities and the public to "remain vigilant" for the first typhoon of the season in Taiwan.

He urged people to stay indoors and cooperate with the government's disaster prevention plans.

The typhoon will not make a direct hit if it continues on its current trajectory, which would see it skim off northern Taiwan, according to the weather bureau.

Taiwan is frequently hit by typhoons during the summer, but it has stepped up its preparations and been on guard against the potential for severe and deadly typhoons since Typhoon Morakot devastated the island in 2009.

Morakot was the deadliest typhoon to hit the island in recorded history, killing nearly 700 people, most of them in landslides.


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