TAIPEI (Reuters/AFP) - 'Super typhoon' Dujuan battered Taiwan with torrential rain and fierce winds on Monday (Sept 28) evening as it made landfall on the north-eastern tip of the island.
Rain and wind lashed Taiwan as Dujuan disrupted trains and flights for travellers heading home from a long holiday weekend and rock band Bon Jovi had to cancel a concert in the island's capital of Taipei.
The storm hit earlier than expected after picking up speed as it approached, with more than 7,000 people evacuated in advance.
Almost 3,000 people were evacuated on Sunday from Taiwan's Green Island and Orchid Island - popular with visitors. More than 4,000 were moved on Monday ahead of the storm. New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu said they were from vulnerable areas, including the hot spring town of Wulai, just outside Taipei.
"It picked up speed in the past few hours, but will slow somewhat after hitting the mountains in the east," an official from the Central Weather Bureau said.
Dujuan made landfall in the northern county of Yilan, where some areas have seen more than 500mm of rain in the last 24 hours.
Waves crashed along the east coast and the capital Taipei was swept with wind and rain.
Panicked visitors to the island's east - many of whom had headed there for the Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend - crammed onto trains away from the eastern cities of Hualien and Taitung before services were suspended.
The authorities said tens of thousands of homes were without power in the island's north.
By mid-afternoon, the island's trains had stopped services, while 169 international and 59 domestic flights were also pulled.
A concert by US rock band Bon Jovi due to take place in Taipei on Monday was cancelled.
Ferry services to outlying islands were also suspended.
Television footage showed fast-moving muddy brown flood waters swamping roads just outside Taipei and huge waves crashing against the island's north-east coast.
Offices and financial markets in Taiwan were shut on Monday, the last day of a three-day Mid-Autumn Festival holiday.
Shops and hotels have remained closed as roads and flood damage are yet to be fully repaired.
"To be honest, we all feel very depressed. Any damage may further prolong the time needed for reconstruction," Mr Chou Chih-kang, a Wulai neighbourhood chief, told AFP.
By Monday evening Wulai had already seen 450mm of rain in 24 hours.
The weather bureau warned that the "massive amount or rubble" on mountain slopes and riverbeds since Soudelor could lead to further damage.
More than 24,000 troops are on standby for disaster relief and evacuations, with 100 shelters set up.
Emergency response centres have been established in the north and east.
There were no immediate reports of injury.
According to Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau, maximum wind speed near the centre of the typhoon and gusts were clocked near the highest speed categories of between 200 kmh to 219 kmh.
The storm intensified as it approached Taiwan, with gusts of 227 kmh.
Windspeeds in Taiwan rose from 23 kmh to 38 kmh in the hours before the typhoon hit.
The authorities warned that coastal areas could be particularly dangerous as tides are affected by the current "supermoon" - a rare astrological event in which the moon appears brighter and larger.
This is because the moon has reached its closest orbital point to Earth and therefore has a stronger gravitational pull than usual.
Dujuan passed near the Japanese island of Ishigaki as it approached Taiwan. Japan's meteorological agency has warned it could trigger waves 13m high.
Around 100 domestic flights were cancelled in Japan, while 3,200 households lost power in Ishigaki and other islands, local media said.
The storm is on course to hit mainland China from Tuesday.
Dujuan was graded a "strong typhoon" - the top category - by Taiwan's weather bureau while other regional forecasters, including the Hong Kong Observatory, categorised it as a "super typhoon".
The Tropical Storm Risk website estimated Dujuan, currently a Category 4 typhoon, just shy of what it measures as a super typhoon, would lose strength on Tuesday.
In early August, super typhoon Soudelor killed eight people in Taiwan and cut power to more than four million households, a record for the island.