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Powerful Typhoon Nepartak Takes Aim at Taiwan, China

Powerful Typhoon Rages off Taiwanese Coast 0:40

Taiwan was bracing for the arrival of a fast-moving super typhoon roaring toward the island and an already soaked Chinese mainland Thursday.

Typhoon Nepartak "threatens all Taiwan," according to the island's Central Emergency Operation Center, which added in a statement that residents should "take extra caution and prevent for strong winds and heavy rains."

"Rain will be the biggest threat with flooding and mudslides possible," it added.

The typhoon, the first of the year, was expected to make landfall on Taiwan's east coast in the city of Hualien early Friday and then cross the Taiwan Strait and hit China Saturday. Large waves were already lashing the shore Ilan port city in Taiwan Thursday.

Wind speeds reached around 160 miles per hour late on Thursday local time, according to NBC meteorologist Sherri Pugh. A "super typhoon" is a tropical cyclone with sustained winds exceeding 150 miles per hour.

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Financial markets will be shut on Friday and cities across Taiwan have announced work and school closures. Airlines began canceling flights and the bullet train service was suspended.

Nepartak was sweeping past the Philippines, with officials warning fishing boats not to venture out to sea and commercial ships to watch out for big waves.

Image: Super Typhoon Nepartak Hits Taiwan
Tourists and coast guards watch the waves as typhoon Nepartak approaches the east of Taiwan on Thursday. Billy H.C. Kwok / Getty Images

Nepartak, a Micronesian word for a local warrior, was labeled a category 5 storm — the highest on the Tropical Storm Risk scale — but was expected to weaken from a super typhoon to a tropical storm by the time it reaches China.

Still, there were fears in China that the storm could worsen already severe flooding in the east of the country.

The widespread flooding across central and southern China over the past week has killed about 130 people, damaged more than 1.9 million hectares of crops and led to direct economic losses of more than 38 billion yuan ($5.70 billion).

The city of Wuhan on the Yangtze River, home to 10 million people, has been particularly badly affected, with flooded subway lines and power cuts.

The typhoon is expected to push more rain into already flooded areas in and around Wuhan, the Xinhua news agency said.

Image: CHINA-DISASTER-FLOOD
A woman empties water from her boots at a flooded area in Wuhan, central China's Hubei province, on Wednesday. AFP - Getty Images

Fujian province, opposite Taiwan, has canceled all ferries to Taiwan and Taiwan-controlled islands, and suspended some trains, while Guangdong province has told fishing boats to return to port, the central government said on its website.

Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength over warm waters and dissipating over land.

In 2009, Typhoon Morakot cut a wide path of destruction over southern Taiwan, killing about 700 people and causing $3 billion worth of damage.