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Taiwan, China prepare for powerful typhoon, 1st to hit the region this year

Taiwan on Friday canceled dozens of international flights and evacuated more than 1,000 people from a vulnerable coastal village as a powerful typhoon threatened to bring strong winds and heavy rains to the island.

China was also making preparations in advance of the arrival of Typhoon Soulik, the first of the year to hit the region.

Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT) Friday that Soulik was at sea about 320 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Yilan county in northeastern Taiwan. The typhoon has winds of 173 kph (107 mph).

Slight rain was falling in Taipei at midday. The weather bureau forecast heavy rains by afternoon for northern Taiwan and torrential rains for the south of the island later Friday.

"At this point, we can't tell if the center of the storm will make landfall, but we can expect the fiercest of winds tonight and early Saturday before it moves over to seas north of Taiwan," said forecaster Chang Ting-yi.

Schools and offices were closing in the afternoon. Officials are readying water pumps and sandbags to prevent flooding in low-lying areas, the government said.

In Yilan, hundreds of soldiers equipped with amphibious vehicles have moved into mountainous areas to help with evacuations and rescues. Farmers harvested fruits and vegetables to reduce damage.

Across the Taiwan Strait, the China Meteorological Administration said Soulik would make landfall in the eastern coastal provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian on Saturday before moving inland.

Local authorities were urged to suspend all maritime activities and cancel large-scale gatherings while reinforcing port and seafood farming facilities to reduce the chances of damage.