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Two die in Taiwan as island braces for full force of Typhoon Soudelor

Two die in Taiwan as island braces for full force of Typhoon Soudelor
Pedestrians in Taipei, Taiwan, walk through a downpour brought by Typhoon Soudelor on
Aug. 6. (David Chang / European Pressphoto Agency)

Taiwanese businesses and schools were closing early Friday as Typhoon Soudelor moved slowly westward toward the island, bringing heavy rain and winds.

A woman and her 8-year-old daughter died - and the girl's twin sister was missing - after the three of them were swept out to sea from a beach in Yilan County, authorities told the Taipei Times. The coast guard unit in Suao Township said it dispatched rescue vessels but later halted work because of high winds and rough seas.

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As of 1:15 p.m. local time, the storm -- among the strongest to form in the Pacific so far this year -- was situated due east of the island and was moving about 13 mph, Taiwan's central weather bureau said. It was expected to make landfall early Saturday local time, sweep across the island and continue toward mainland China.

The entire island was under an advisory for "extremely torrential rain." Yilan County on the northeast side of the island received more than 3 inches of rain between midnight and 1:15 p.m., and parts of New Taipei City had received almost as much.

Winds at the center of the storm were gusting to 129 mph, the weather bureau said. Some train and ferry services were suspended, but flights were continuing to take off and arrive at Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport on Friday afternoon.

Some schools and businesses on the eastern side of the island, closest to the storm, shuttered for the entire day Friday, but in most parts of Taiwan, only evening classes and work activities were called off.

Students who had been protesting revised guidelines to the high school history curriculum outside the Ministry of Education since last week called off their demonstration ahead of the storm, the Taiwan News reported.

Soudelor walloped the Northern Mariana Islands earlier in the week, knocking out water and power to Saipan. President Obama has declared the U.S. territory a major disaster zone, which qualifies residents for increased federal assistance.

Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China

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