Famous Taiwan dive site toppled by typhoon

TAIPEI • Divers say a towering coral known as the Big Mushroom at the heart of a world-famous dive site in Taiwan was toppled when a super typhoon struck last week.

Green Island off Taiwan's east coast - which attracts divers from around the globe - has been left reeling from the underwater damage caused by Typhoon Meranti, and by the smaller Typhoon Malakas that followed it.

It is home to the 10m-high mushroom-shaped pore coral, the biggest of its kind in the world.

But videos posted by local dive instructor Yu Ming-hung show the coral lying on its side on the seabed. He called it a "loss and heartache for the Taiwanese" on his Facebook page, where he posted the footage.

The Big Mushroom is at least 1,000 years old and has grown on the 18m-deep seabed since the Song dynasty, Mr Yu said. It has been named as one of the top 20 dive sites in Asia by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

"We were shocked to hear the news. It is a great pity," said East Coast National Scenic Area Administration chief Chuang Hui-fang.

Green Island and the nearby Orchid Island remain largely cut off.

Regular ferries have not yet resumed because of debris in the harbour.

The storm also swept away a lighthouse at a dock in the eastern county of Taitung, from which ferries to the islands depart. Tourists were evacuated from the islands before Meranti hit.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Famous Taiwan dive site toppled by typhoon'. Print Edition | Subscribe