August 1, 2012 / 8:53 AM / 7 years ago

Taiwan, China on alert as typhoons approach

A cyclist holds up an umbrella as Typhoon Saola approaches the northeastern coastal town of Nanfangao in Ilan county July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - Taiwan issued torrential rain and strong wind warnings for most of the island on Wednesday as slow-moving Typhoon Saola approached, while in China, Premier Wen Jiabao told authorities to be on the highest alert to prevent deaths.

The typhoon has winds of about 119 km per hour (74 mph) and could bring up to 1,000 mm (39 inches) of rain to parts of Taiwan over the rest of the week, the Central Weather Bureau said.

The storm is likely to skirt the northern tip of the island on Thursday, though there was also a chance it could make landfall, it said.

Heavy rain was falling in the capital Taipei on Wednesday and city authorities will decide later in the day whether to order businesses and financial markets to close on Thursday.

The typhoon is expected to hit the southeastern Chinese provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

A separate system, Typhoon Damrey, is expected to pass just north of China’s financial hub of Shanghai on its way inland from Thursday.

Wen, who usually leaves more junior leaders to oversee arrangements before storms, told authorities to step up preparations and “put people’s lives first”, Xinhua said.

The ruling Communist Party, which values stability above all else, has been rattled by public criticism of its poor handling of floods in Beijing last month that killed 77 people.

Tracking site Tropical Storm Risk rated Saola a category two, the second-lowest on its scale of five, but forecast it could strengthen to a category three in 36 hours, when it will cross into China.

Reporting by Jonathan Standing in TAIPEI and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel

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