Typhoon Morakot Brings Relief to Taiwan Tech Industry

Typhoons are generally loathed for the havoc they wreak in many parts of East Asia, where torrential rains, flooding and heavy wind often kill people and cause millions of dollars in damage.

But Typhoon Morakot, just off the coast of Taiwan, is bringing welcome relief from a drought affecting parts of the island.

Droughts don't often affect tropical Taiwan, where rain falls almost every day in the summer. But when a lack of rainfall causes water shortages, it can be a real headache for technology companies such as chip and LCD panel makers, because they require a lot of water for production.

Taiwan's drought had become so bad in some places, such as the northern port city of Keelung and in southern Taiwan near the Tainan Science-based Industrial Park, home to chip factories owned by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) and United Microelectronics (UMC), that the government announced water restrictions early this week.

But rain ahead of Morakot's arrival has already prompted officials to lift those restrictions.

"The typhoon has already brought enough rain to refill reservoirs to adequate levels in some of our most affected areas, including Tainan and Keelung," said Wu Yue-si, deputy director general of Taiwan's Water Resources Agency. "We've already lifted water restrictions in those areas."

"This is a major typhoon, and it will bring a lot of rain water," he added.

Typhoon Morakot should hit Taiwan Friday evening if it maintains its present course, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau, which shows the typhoon's projected path on its Web site.

The last major drought to hit Taiwan's tech industry was in the spring of 2002 when a lack of rainfall caused reservoirs in the island's Silicon Valley, the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, to fall dangerously low. Companies trucked water to their factories at great expense.

UMC, the world's second largest contract chip maker, estimated at the time that it needed hundreds of truckloads of water each day to supply its factories. LCD panel makers needed even more.

The water restrictions put in place early this week - and already lifted - had no effect on chip makers in Tainan.

"We haven't seen any impact there," said J.H. Tzeng, deputy director of public relations at TSMC. Two of the company's most advanced chip factories are located in Tainan, while the rest of its Taiwan-based chip factories are in Hsinchu.

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