TAIPEI/MANILA (AFP, REUTERS) - Typhoon Chanthu unleashed powerful winds and heavy rain on eastern Taiwan on Sunday (Sept 12), disrupting travel links and cutting electricity to some homes, but sparing the island a direct hit.
Downgraded from a super typhoon since its rapid formation last week, the outer edges of Chanthu pounded the eastern coastline. But the centre of the storm remained out to sea as it moved north, the central weather bureau said.
The eastern regions of Hualien and Taitung have received some 200mm of rain so far, the bureau added. Waves of up to 7m were recorded on Orchid Island off Taiwan's eastern coast.
A total of 159 domestic and international flights have been cancelled due to the typhoon, the central emergency operation centre said. All ferry services to offshore islands were also suspended, along with some train routes.
Around 26,000 households have lost power, the authorities added.
"The typhoon is pretty solid and its impact is most obvious today, bringing strong winds, rains and waves before it gradually moves away tomorrow," said forecaster Hsu Chung-yi.
At 0200 GMT (10am Singapore time), the centre of Chanthu was 90km north-east of Hualien, packing gusts of up to 198kmh, the bureau said.
Most businesses and public venues were closed in eastern Taiwan and parts of the north, including the capital Taipei, where heavy rains started on Sunday.
Around 2,600 people in landslide-prone areas around Hualien have been evacuated, while some 31,000 troops are on standby for relief work.
Taiwan is regularly hit by tropical storms in the summer months.
In a rare exception to the rule, not a single typhoon made landfall last year, the first time in 56 years.
That helped fuel the worst drought in decades, until heavy rains set in a few months ago and brought needed relief.
In the Philippines, several communities remain flooded and without power on Sunday after Typhoon Chanthu battered its northernmost islands, displacing thousands of people.
The typhoon, which at one point was categorised by the Philippine weather bureau as a Category 5 storm, has weakened after powering into the northernmost region, including the Batanes island group, on Saturday, the weather bureau said.
"It's one of the strongest typhoons I've felt," said Mr Dennis Ballesteros Valdez, a resident of Sabtang town in the province of Batanes, which is often pummelled by powerful typhoons. "It could have been more destructive if the houses were not built as strong."
Footage taken by Mr Valdez showed powerful winds and rains battering houses in Sabtang on Saturday morning.
More than 11,000 people have been affected by the typhoon, with more than 1,000 still in evacuation centres, the disaster agency said in a report. No casualties have been reported yet.
Some 20 typhoons hit the Philippines on average each year, according to the weather authorities.