Taiwan News: Typhoon Mangkhut Upgraded, 4.4 Earthquake Jolts Hualien

Taiwan News: Typhoon Mangkhut Upgraded, 4.4 Earthquake Jolts Hualien
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A tropical storm that has formed over the Pacific has been upgraded to a typhoon.

Central Weather Bureau (CWB) forecasters said the typhoon, now named Mangkhut, is expected to intensify with the possibility it could reach Taiwan Saturday.

As of 2:00 p.m. yesterday, the typhoon was located about 3,000 kilometers from the eastern coast of Taiwan traveling at a speed of 34 kilometers per hour in a westerly direction.

Mangkhut is packing maximum sustained winds of 126 kilometers per hour, with gusts of up to 162 kph.

The CWB also said a tropical depression over the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines is expected to bring rain to southeastern parts of Taiwan.

Rain could last for two days in southeastern parts of Taiwan, including the Hengchun Peninsula, and the tropical depression could still be upgraded to Typhoon Barijat sometime today.

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A magnitude 4.4 earthquake jolted eastern Taiwan last night.

The Central Weather Bureau said the tremblor struck shortly after 9 p.m. at a distance of 5.2 kilometers south of Hualien County Hall and a depth of over 43 kilometers.

The earthquake's intensity measured 3 on Taiwan's 7-tiered intensity scale in parts of Hualien County as well as Taichung in central Taiwan.

Nantou and Yilan recorded an intensity of 2, while the intensity in areas of Taitung, Changhua, Chiayi, Taoyuan and Yunlin measured 1.

There were no reports of injury or damage.

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Taiwanese tourists stranded in Hokkaido prefecture after a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck on Thursday have returned home.

According to data from Taiwan's Tourism Bureau, 712 tourists were forced to delay their return because of a Thursday's quake, which reports said resulted in 39 fatalities and more than 600 injuries.

RTS20D68
Credit: Kyodo/via Reuters
Police officers search for survivors from a house damaged by Thursday's Hokkaido earthquake.

Following the quake, representatives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) office in Sapporo immediately set up an emergency response center to answer phone calls from Taiwanese affected by the disaster.

MoFA said that as of Sunday afternoon, it had helped more than 700 Taiwanese fly home.

Multiple media reports claimed that Taiwanese citizens received assistance from Chinese authorities at the scene – but only after they said they identified as Chinese, reinforcing Beijing’s insistence that Taiwan is part of China.

After the quake, although the office was unable to operate for a time due to the lack of power and water, the MoFA office space was turned into an emergency shelter for Taiwanese who could not find a place to stay due to the earthquake.

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MoFA has thanked Rhode Island after it became the 28th U.S. state to enter into a reciprocal driver's license agreement with Taiwan last Thursday.

The agreement will allow Taiwanese citizens in Rhode Island to transfer their national driver's licenses to the state without having to pass a written or road test there. Rhode Islanders can also transfer their licenses to Taiwan.

Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles Administrator Walter Craddock welcomed officials from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston for a ceremony.

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Prices at the pump have gone up this morning, with domestic gasoline increasing by NT$0.1 and diesel by NT$0.2 per liter following a hike in international crude oil prices.

This is the third week in a row fuel prices have risen. At CPC gas stations nationwide, they stand at NT$29.3 (US$0.95) per liter for 92 unleaded gas, NT$30.8 per liter for 95 unleaded, NT$32.8 per liter for 98 unleaded, and NT$27.5 for super diesel.

Privately-run Formosa Petrochemical also raised its rates by similar amounts.

Scooters_in_Taipei_street_01
Credit: Jim Epler / Flickr
Scooters wait at a red light in Taipei.

International oil prices rose last week over renewed concerns about a tightening global market due to tough U.S. sanctions on Iran's sale of crude oil and an upward swing in oil demand during the summer.

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The number of dengue fever cases across Taiwan has hit 102 after 10 new indigenous cases were confirmed on Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Six of the 10 new cases occurred in Taichung, with three in Changhua County and one in Kaohsiung, the CDC said, noting that the youngest patient is a teenager and the oldest in his 70's.

A CDC official said Taichung has been hardest hit by the mosquito-borne disease this year, and he attributes the situation in the city to the failure of patients to report their infection to the authorities in a timely manner.

The first dengue fever case has been traced back to August 3rd, but Taichung public health authorities received no report until August 20th.

Currently, Taichung has reported 56 dengue fever cases, followed by 31 in New Taipei, six in Kaohsiung, four in Changhua County, two each in Taipei and Chiayi County, and one in Taoyuan.

The CDC urges the public to clean their neighborhoods as a precaution, especially after several days of heavy rain.

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Suicides in Taiwan have been on the rise for three years now.

Although it has not been among the top 10 leading causes of death in Taiwan since 2010, the number of people who died by suicide last year was almost 3,900, making it the 11th leading cause of death in Taiwan in 2017.

That figure is an increase from nearly 3,700 in 2015 and close to 3,800 in 2016, indicating more needs to be done to prevent people taking their own lives.

The Taiwanese Society of Suicidology says the rate is particularly high among those aged 65 and older.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 1 million people die from suicide every year, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds.

There is one suicide attempt every 3 seconds, and WHO data indicates on average that every suicide impacts at least six other people.

In Taiwan, the 24-hour Suicide Prevention Hotline is 0800-788-995. Other suicide helplines and resources in Taiwan can be found here.

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An empirical number has been reached for the the impact of coal on air quality.

By comparing average levels of PM2.5, the air quality index for the first six months of the year was lower in 20 of Taiwan's 22 cities and counties than the average for the same period from 2013 to 2017.

Air-pollution-taiwan
Credit: John Tarantino / CC 3.0
A polluted suburb of Taipei.

A professor of Environmental Engineering at National Chung Hsing University said the drop in coal use for power generation was the main reason for improvements in air quality recorded in Taichung, Nantou County, Yunlin County and Chiayi County.

The professor posted the data compiled by the Environmental Protection Administration on his Facebook page Saturday as evidence that air quality in those areas is improving. On average, from 2013 to 2017, there was a 3 to 5 microgram per square meter drop.

The expert said the improvement comes from the substitution of coal for liquid natural gas in electricity production even as there was less rain this year which helps reduce pollution in the air.

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A Salvadoran student will be staying in Taiwan to study despite her country severing ties with Taipei.

Janeth Ramirez is learning Chinese in Taiwan and has already completed a year of study at National Cheng Kung University in Tainan.

She will be starting her studies in the university's Department of Chemistry this semester, which begins today.

A total of three students from El Salvador originally planned to enroll at the university this semester, but following the ending of official diplomacy between the Central American country and Taiwan on August 21, two students have since withdrawn, leaving Ramirez the only one to go ahead with her original plans.

When asked why she wanted to continue her studies at the same university, Ramirez said she has become accustomed to the lifestyle in Taiwan and found Taiwanese people very approachable and friendly.

The El Salvador government has agreed to pay food, lodging and living expenses until she completes her program of study, so Ramirez said she only needs to cover tuition.

Read More: 'Heartbreaking': Taiwan's Salvadorans Express Anger and Frustration at Diplomatic Rupture

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An American man convicted of sexual harassment will be deported.

Joseph Aron was found guilty of harassing four women in Taipei early this year and sentenced to a total of five months imprisonment, after which he will be removed from the country.

The 36-year-old Aron, who entered Taiwan on a tourist visa on Jan. 2, was accused of sexually touching two women at different locations in Taipei just two days later on Jan. 4.

In addition, the district court also found Aron guilty on charges of sexually harassing a female judicial police officer and a female interpreter on May 21 when attending a court hearing on the earlier charges.

The U.S. citizen's appeal was rejected by the High Court, and Aron will be deported upon completion of his sentence, which is commutable to a fine.

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In the wake of massive flooding caused by torrential rain in southern Taiwan recently, the average wholesale price of vegetables in Taipei reached NT$42.3 (US$1.37) per kilogram Sunday, the highest this year and a rise of 5 percent from the day before.

Vegetable prices in the Taipei wholesale market have been above NT$40 per kilogram since Sept. 5 after heavy rain triggered flooding in southern Taiwan on Aug. 23, driving prices over NT$40 on Aug. 25 for the first time this year.

An official with the Taipei City Government's market administration office said his office is closely monitoring prices and will introduce price stabilization measures if necessary.

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Taiwanese businesses are mulling moving manufacturing operations from China amid the intensifying trade war between Washington and Beijing, with companies in the textile, electronics and bicycle industries are most likely to relocate operations, according to the latest survey released by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA).

The U.S. imposed a 25 percent tariff on up to US$50 billion (NT$1.54 trillion) of Chinese goods in July and is threatening tariffs on an additional US$200 billion (NT$6.16 trillion).

China-based Taiwanese businesses could be badly hit if trade tensions between the U.S. and China heat up further, experts have warned.

Economic Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) noted that in the 1990s, many Taiwanese manufacturers set up factories in China due to higher land, labor costs and strict environmental protection regulations in Taiwan, so there is precedent of companies moving to help their bottom line.

The MoEA survey also said the fallout from the trade war between the world's two largest economies will have minimal impact on Taiwan's petrochemical, steel/aluminum and machinery manufacturers, which mainly supply products to China's domestic markets.

Industries that could be affected are the textile, electronics and bicycle industries, which export products to the U.S.

Read Next: Scholars Release Manifesto Calling for Govt Action to Save Taiwan Studies

This news bulletin was provided courtesy of International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT), Taiwan’s leading English-language broadcaster.

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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