TAIPEI • Super Typhoon Nepartak brought chaos to Taiwan yesterday, forcing more than 15,000 people to flee their homes as the strongest winds in over a century lashed part of the island.
The season's first major storm hit Taimali township in eastern Taitung county early yesterday, bringing torrential rain, shutting offices and schools, and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
Ferocious winds battered the island at close to 200kmh with Taitung recording the strongest gusts in the county since 1901, according to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau.
Two deaths were reported, according to an official tally. The victims are a soldier who fell into the sea off Dongyin Island and was found dead yesterday, and a man who drowned off a beach in Hualien a day earlier.
Dozens of injuries were also reported, most caused by fallen objects. "The wind is very strong," said a resident of Taitung. "Many hut roofs and signs on the street have been blown off," the resident, who gave only her surname, Cheng, told Reuters.
The Philippines also reeled from the rains brought by the typhoon, which caused the suspension of classes and work in public schools and government offices in Manila.
The storm weakened as it passed over the island before leaving southwest Tainan City in the afternoon, heading for eastern China.
More than 15,000 people in Taiwan have been moved from their homes, which were prone to landslides or flooding, and about 3,600 of them were in shelters.
Nearly 4,000 people evacuated were in New Taipei City, which includes Wulai, a popular hot spring area near the capital which was cut off for days after Typhoon Soudelor ravaged Taiwan last August.
Soldiers on Thursday went door-to-door in remote mountainous areas urging villagers to leave their homes. The Defence Ministry had stepped up evacuations since 2009, when Typhoon Morakot killed more than 600 people, many of them buried in huge landslides in the south.
As many as 466,000 households lost power due to Nepartak, with about 125,000 still without electricity as of yesterday afternoon.
Most scheduled domestic flights were cancelled, while close to 500 international flights were affected, Taipei's two main airports said.
Preparations were being made on mainland China, where Nepartak is forecast to make landfall in Fujian province today.
It is expected to "cause impact on the entire province with severe wind and rains", the Fujian Meteorological Administration said, predicting wind speeds will slow down to 137kmh by the time it hits.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK