Typhoon Parma: Taiwan evacuates over 6 000

Taiwan had evacuated more than 6 000 villagers by early Monday as Typhoon Parma lingered in seas near the island, bringing heavy rains and the risk of deadly mudslides, a rescuer said.

The evacuations, some of them forced, were concentrated in south Taiwan, which saw the heaviest losses from Typhoon Morakot in August, as fears mounted that the downpours could cause mountainsides to collapse.

"The evacuees have been relocated in shelters arranged by township offices. They're all safe," said Andrew Cheng, a Taipei-based official with the National Disaster and Prevention and Protection Commission.

"The next 24 to 48 hours will be critical. We'll watch closely how much more rain Typhoon Parma will bring in," he told AFP.

More than 3 000 residents in Pingtung county in south Taiwan and almost 2 000 people in neighbouring Kaohsiung county have left their homes, while the rest were evacuated in east Taiwan's Yilan, Hualien and Taitung counties.

Typhoon Parma was 250 kilometres (155 miles) south-west of Oluanpi, the southernmost tip of Taiwan, at 0115 GMT and continued to hover in the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan and the Philippines.

The weather system packed gusts of up to 126 kilometres (78 miles) per hour, down from 155 kilometres per hour on Sunday.

"While the strength (of Parma) has declined, it is very likely to produce more heavy rains for the island, in particular in the east," said Hsieh Ming-chang, an official with Central Weather Bureau.

The defence ministry ordered the deployment of some 200 soldiers from elite units to help evacuations from remote villages while putting 35 000 others in standby.

The government came under strong criticism for an alleged ineffective reaction to Typhoon Morakot, which claimed over 600 lives and plunged President Ma Ying-jeou into his worst political crisis since taking office in May 2008. - Sapa-AFP

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