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WEATHER

Typhoon strengthens near Taiwan

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A NOAA satellite image showing Typhoon Matsa near Taiwan.

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(CNN) -- A powerful typhoon in the East China Sea near Taiwan has intensified, with winds of 148 kilometers per hour (92 miles per hour) and gusts up to 185 km/h (115 mph), the CNN Weather Center says.

The typhoon, named Matsa, is moving northwest at 19 km/h. While the center of the storm should stay out to sea, Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau has issued a 24-hour warning for heavy rain and landslides from 1 p.m. Thursday (0400 GMT).

According to the bureau, the typhoon is expected to be 240 kilometers east of Hualien in eastern Taiwan by 5 p.m. local time Thursday (0800 GMT). It has warned ships at sea to watch for high waves.

Japan's southern Ryukyu Islands to the northeast of Taiwan will likely see a direct hit from the storm, where winds could gust to 180 km/h, and the storm surge could be as high as 3 meters.

The CNN Weather Center says that by Friday afternoon, Matsa should be close enough to the East China coast to begin bringing heavy rain to cities such as Shanghai.

A major concern is the possibility of serious flooding in low lying areas near the shore and along already-swollen rivers such as the Yangzi.

The heavy rain could lead to widespread flooding and mudslides along the China coast. Shanghai could see winds between 100-125 km/h.

So far this season, there have been nine typhoons in the region. Two weeks ago, Typhoon Haitang killed six people in Taiwan, injured another 30 and caused economic damage of about $150 million in the farming sector, according to Taiwan officials quoted by Reuters news agency.

Reuters says that in 2001, Typhoon Toraji killed 200 people in Taiwan. A few months later, Typhoon Nari caused Taipei's worst flooding on record and killed 100.

Typhoons frequently hit Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong and southern China during the northern summer and autumn months. The storms gather strength from warm seawater and tend to dissipate after making landfall.

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