Deadly 2008 typhoon set for TV re-run

June 18, 2009

A slow-moving typhoon that collapsed a tunnel, knocked out a bridge and set off mudslides, killing 12 people in Taiwan last September, is coming back this year.

This time it’s on worldwide TV.

Typhoon Hunter, a 46-minute documentary led by Local Tiger International Co. and funded in part by the Taiwan government, tracks an effort to send weather sensing aircraft into the eye of the typhoon.  Taiwan worked with Japan and the United States, both of whose territories were hit by the same storm, to fly the dangerous mission for recording changes at the centre of the typhoon.

“This reveals for the first time the scientific secrets to the incubation, formation and fierce destructive power of typhoons,” government information Minister Su Jun-pin said in a statement.

The storm in question was Typhoon Sinlaku, which packed wind gusts as high as 162 kph (101 mph) and dumped up to 1,400 mm (55 inches) of rain in some parts of Taiwan. (For a story from the time, click here) Three died in the collapsed tunnel, one drove off the fallen bridge and others were killed in weather-driven traffic accidents. The typhoon also hurt 23 more people and prompted thousands to evacuate. 

The film debuts on June 21 on the National Geographic Channel, which has collaborated with the Taiwan government since 2004 to show short natural phenomenon films.

Typhoons, which are similar to hurricanes in the Atlantic, are swirling low-pressure systems that regularly hit Taiwan, Japan, China and the Philippines in the second half of each year. They gather strength from the warm waters of the Pacific or the South China Sea before weakening over land. 

Taiwan authorities usually call off work and school for major typhoons to minimise injury from blown debris. People are admonished to put hanging signs and potted plants indoors, while flights are cancelled and seaports shut down. The brunt of a storm usually passes within a day.  

“Typhoons are not only of interest to people in Taiwan, but lots of people want to study them,” director Jose Garcia Sanchez said at a mid-June film unveiling ceremony in Taipei. “Some don’t know what a typhoon is.”

Links: Sinlaku YouTube Video, and finally: where’s the next typhoon?

(Photo credits: top left – Paramilitary policemen run with a child as Typhoon Sinlaku hits a levee in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, September 15, 2008. About 460,000 people in east China’s Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces have been evacuated as tropical storm Sinlaku, which was weakened from a typhoon on Monday morning, was approaching, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/China Daily. Right – Rescue workers look at the collapsed Hofeng Bridge across the Dajia River in Taichung after the passing of Typhoon Sinlaku September 15, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer)

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