Taipei, July 30 (CNA) Hualien County is closely monitoring Tropical Storm Saola as it approaches Taiwan's eastern coast and is ready to take the necessary precautions, the Hualien fire department said Monday.
The fire department will activate its disaster response center once the Central Weather Bureau issues a sea warning for the storm and includes Hualien among its warning areas, department officials said.
If rainfalls surpass warning levels, the Directorate General of Highways' Hualien Branch said it would close down the Suhua Highway, which links Suao in Yilan County with Hualien, and prohibit vehicles from entering.
Hualien's Taroko National Park Headquarters is also closely monitoring the storm's movements. The park said it will stop giving out permits to enter the mountain and ask mountain climbing groups in the park to pull back from the area once a sea warming is issued.
Meanwhile, fishing boats in Hualien that are still out at sea are expected to return to port before Monday evening, said Wang Teng-yi, director-general of the Hualien District Fishermen's Association.
The Suao District Fishermen's Association said it was also continuing to urge boats to return to port. Yilan County's Nanfangao fishing port is now crowded with returning boats.
The Cabinet-level Coast Guard Administration warned people to keep away from the ocean, and added that once a land warning is issued, dangerous sea areas will be shut down.
As of 2 p.m. Monday, Saola, the ninth storm of the 2012 Pacific typhoon season, was centered 480 kilometers east-southeast of Taiwan's southernmost tip, moving toward Taiwan in a north-northwesterly direction at a speed of 9 kph.
It was packing sustained winds of 108 kph, with gusts reaching 136 kph, according to the Central Weather Bureau.
A sea warning for the storm will be issued at 8:30 p.m. on Monday.
The bureau warned of potential heavy rains in parts of northeastern Taiwan, eastern Taiwan and mountain areas in northern Taiwan on Monday and cautioned people in those areas to be aware of the possibility of landslides, falling rocks and sudden downpours.
(By Liu Chia-tai, Shen Ju-feng and Christie Chen)