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One dead, thousands evacuated as Typhoon Soulik hits Taiwan

One dead, thousands evacuated as Typhoon Soulik hits Taiwan

Taipei: Thousands of people were evacuated in Taiwan and the entire island declared an "alert zone" as Typhoon Soulik made landfall early this morning, killing one person and injuring seven.

In the capital Taipei, a 50-year-old police officer died after he was hit in the head by a brick that came loose during the typhoon, the Central Emergency Operation Centre said.

Seven people were also injured in Taipei, mostly by falling objects.

More than 8,000 people have been moved from their homes, many from southern areas prone to landslides, according to officials.

"The whole country is now considered an alert zone," an official from the National Fire Agency told AFP, as soldiers were deployed in high risk areas.

Around 5,000 of those who have been evacuated were from the landslide zones in the south -- 3,000 were moved out of Kaohsiung city and 2,000 others from Pingtung county.

They have been taken to local government buildings which have been turned into shelters.

Offices and schools closed in Taipei and eight other cities, with residents advised to stay indoors as the typhoon churns towards the island.

Packing winds of up to 190 kilometres an hour, Soulik made landfall on the north-east coast around 03:00 am today (0130 IST yesterday), the Central Weather Bureau said.

Local media reported that the police officer hit by the brick had been riding a motorcycle home after work. He died on the spot at around 02:40 am (0110 IST).

Even before Soulik's arrival, Taipei was pounded by powerful winds and downpours which disrupted power in some areas, uprooted trees and caused injuries.

In the north, more than 600 residents were evacuated from six low-lying aboriginal riverside villages yesterday morning.

"I saw TV reporting that the typhoon may bring in up to one metre of rainfall. That would be terrible and reminded me of the painful memories last year," Ginghong Izan, a male migrant from the Amei aboriginal tribe told AFP, speaking outside his home in Hsichou village.

"My TV, computer, refrigerator and furniture were all flooded when (Typhoon) Saola hit in August. It cost me around Tw$200,000 (USD 6,670)," the 52-year-old said, adding that he started moving valuables to higher parts of his house two days ago.

Saola left six dead, two missing and 16 wounded in Taiwan after taking 23 lives in the Philippines.

Other villagers were busy packing up their personal belongings and were reinforcing the roofs of their wooden homes.

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