TAIPEI (REUTERS, AFP) - Super typhoon Nepartak hit eastern Taiwan early on Friday (July 8), driving thousands of people from their homes, disrupting power supply and forcing the cancellation of more than 600 flights, emergency authorities said.
Television broadcast images of strong wind and torrential rains brought by the year’s first typhoon, whose approach had prompted Taiwan and neighbouring China to batten down the hatches.
As many as 15,400 people were evacuated from their homes in preparation for the storm, while 187,830 households suffered power outages, emergency officials said.
“The wind is very strong,” said a resident of Taitung, the eastern Taiwan city where the typhoon hit land shortly before 6am local time (6am Friday Singapore time).
“Many hut roofs and signs on the street have been blown off,” the resident, who gave only her surname, Cheng, told Reuters.
Three deaths and 142 injuries were reported, according to Central News Agency. A soldier who fell into the sea off Dongyin Island was found dead Friday, the day after a man drowned off a beach in Hualien county, according to an official tally.
A 71 year-old woman also died after being hit by a falling wardrobe.
Those injured were mostly cut by fallen glass or fell on the streets, hospital officials said.
Bullet train service had been suspended, and more than 300 international and 254 domestic flights cancelled, an emergency services website showed. Financial markets, schools and offices were all closed on Friday.
The storm weakened as it passed over the island before leaving southwest Tainan City at around 2.30pm, heading for eastern China.
It was weakening and should be a tropical storm by the time it hits China’s southeastern province of Fujian on Saturday morning.
More than 4,000 people working on coastal fish farms in Fujian have already been evacuated, and fishing boats recalled to port, the official China News Service said.
The storm is expected to worsen already severe flooding in parts of central and eastern China, especially in the major city of Wuhan.
Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea, picking up strength over warm waters and dissipating over land.
Typhoons used to kill many people in China but the government now enforces evacuations and takes precautions well in advance, which has helped save many lives.
Taiwan braces itself for typhoons between June and September each year. Last year Super Typhoon Dujuan killed three people and left more than 300 injured on the island, leaving a trail of destruction.
In 2009, Typhoon Morakot cut a wide swathe of destruction through southern Taiwan, killing about 700 people and causing damages of up to US$3 billion.