TAIPEI: Parts of Taiwan were brought to a standstill Wednesday as super typhoon Meranti skirted past the island’s southern tip, bringing the strongest winds in 21 years and disrupting traffic ahead of a major holiday.
Although typhoon Meranti did not make landfall, the storm brought violent winds and torrential rain to eastern and southern Taiwan.
At 0500 GMT, Meranti was 90 kilometers (56 miles) west-northwest of southernmost Hengchun township, packing gusts of up to 234 kilometers per hour.
Hengchun’s observation station recorded the strongest winds in its 120 year history earlier Wednesday, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau.
“Meranti will have its most significant impact on Taiwan today,” said forecaster Hsieh Pei-yun.
“It is the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan in 21 years in terms of maximum sustained wind near the center,” she added.
Southern Kenting, a tourist destination known for its white-sand beaches, was battered by winds and floods.
Residents in a fishing port in southern Taitung county woke up to find that a small lighthouse had disappeared and believed that powerful winds blew it off into the sea, as waves almost 10 meters high lashed the shore in the area.
Trucks and cargo containers were overturned while electricity poles and trees were blown down by winds in some southern areas. One uprooted tree hit a car in southern Kaohsiung city, though the driver was unharmed.
There were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center.
School and work were cancelled for most eastern and southern counties, and the typhoon has knocked out power for more than 300,000 households.
There are severe travel disruptions for the Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend which starts Thursday, as over 300 domestic and international flights have been cancelled and trains running along the east coast have been halted.
More than 130 ferry services to offshore islets and to several Chinese coastal cities have also been suspended, officials said.
The coastguard was forced to cancel a ceremony to launch two new ships in Kaohsiung while a maritime and defense expo in the city has been postponed, officials said.
The storm is expected to dump as much as 800 millimeters (31.5 inches) of rain in mountainous areas, potentially triggering landslides.
Close to 1,500 people have been evacuated from at-risk areas, with about half in temporary shelters, an official tally showed.
Meranti was moving northwest into the Taiwan Strait at 18 kilometers an hour. Another storm brewing east of the Philippines may also affect Taiwan later this week.
The weather bureau’s Hsieh said tropical storm Malakas was expected to be closest to the island on Friday and Saturday, but was unlikely to make landfall.
Three people were killed and hundreds were injured in July when super typhoon Nepartak pounded Taiwan.
The island’s worst typhoon death toll came In 2009 when Morakot left more than 600 dead, including 400 people who were buried by mudslides triggered by torrential rains. AFP