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Typhoon shuts businesses, forces flight cancellations in southern Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan braced for typhoon Bailu on Saturday, shutting businesses and schools as airlines cancelled hundreds of flights amid warnings of landslides, floods and high seas on the island.

Typhoon Bailu, categorised at the weakest typhoon level by Taiwan’s weather bureau, made landfall in Saturday afternoon in the southern county of Pingtung with maximum winds of 137 km (85 miles) per hour.

Hundreds of people were moved to safety, while more than 350 flights were cancelled. Some 34,000 soldiers were deployed in the south amid fears of floods.

The storm, which was the first to make landfall on the island in more than two years, cut power to nearly 30,000 homes and caused localized flooding in southern Taiwan.

The bureau issued wind and rain warnings for southern Taiwan, including the port city of Kaohsiung where businesses and schools were closed. It also put out a warning to seafarers around the island.

The typhoon is expected to cross the Taiwan Strait and hit the Chinese province of Fujian over the weekend, forecasters said.

Typhoons regularly hit Taiwan, China, the Philippines and Japan in the second half of the year, gathering strength from the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean or South China Sea.

Typhoon Morakot devastated the island in 2009, killing nearly 700 people, most of them in landslides.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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