SHANGHAI • Typhoon Soudelor moved towards China, weaker but still packing a punch, after killing at least six people and leaving a trail of destruction in Taiwan.
The typhoon ripped up trees and triggered landslides in Taiwan yesterday, with fallen trees hitting cars, blocking roads and knocking out power to 1.5 million homes.
Rivers broke their banks under torrential rain and towering waves pounded the island's coastline.
Schools and offices were shut as more than 1m of rain fell on some areas. Hundreds of flights were delayed or cancelled and more than 9,900 people were evacuated.
Soudelor's winds tore off roofs, signs and at least one bus stop from their fixtures and threw motor scooters into the air. Carriages of a freight train were overturned in the north-eastern coastal town of Suao, where winds were the strongest.
The metal roof of the house next door to mine was completely blown away. I saw a car crushed to bits.
TAIPEI RESIDENT JACK LIN
In capital Taipei, steel sheets and rods were blown off a half-constructed stadium and the authorities shut down much of the public transport system. "The metal roof of the house next door to mine was completely blown away," said resident Jack Lin. "I saw a car crushed to bits."
The authorities issued flood and mudslide alerts, and TV broadcasts showed mud trapping people and murky water nearly covering the roofs of cars in some areas.
One mountain village in Taiwan's northern region of Taoyuan was left almost submerged in mud.
The Taitung township in eastern Yilan saw the most rain, with more than 1m falling since last Thursday.
"I have never seen such a powerful typhoon in my 60 years of life," one elderly woman in eastern Taitung told Formosa TV.
The Taiwanese authorities said six people died in the storm, including a rescue worker in southern Pintung county who was hit by a car and killed while clearing downed branches from a road, and a worker in Suao who was hit by a falling sign.
Also among the dead was one person who drowned in his flooded home and another who was killed by a falling tree. Earlier, an eight-year-old girl and her mother became the first fatalities when they were swept out to sea as the storm approached on Thursday.
Four people were missing and 101 were injured, the authorities added.
Some 3,000 troops were deployed to aid disaster relief.
In China's mainland, at least 250,000 people have been evacuated from the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang ahead of the typhoon's arrival. China's National Meteorological Centre predicted Soudelor - named after a legendary Micronesian chief - would make landfall yesterday evening in Fujian, somewhere between the cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen.
"When it makes landfall in Fujian, it will be significantly weaker, basically the strength of a typhoon or severe tropical storm," chief forecaster Qian Chuanhai said.
The Tropical Storm Risk website downgraded the typhoon to category 1 by yesterday afternoon, on a scale of 1 to 5. But Soudelor was still packing winds of up to 144kmh as it crossed the strait between Taiwan and China's mainland.
More than 300 trains linked to Fujian have been cancelled, while China's three biggest airlines have cancelled more than 60 domestic flights.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS