Typhoon lashes Japan islands and Taiwan, heading to China

Giant waves crash into the coastline next to National Taiwan Ocean University as Typhoon Chan-hom brings rain to northern Taiwan on July 10, 2015.
Giant waves crash into the coastline next to National Taiwan Ocean University as Typhoon Chan-hom brings rain to northern Taiwan on July 10, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Typhoon Chan-hom lashed Japan's Okinawa island chain on Friday as it pushed towards Taiwan and onto China, leaving more than 20 people injured.

Thousands were evacuated from eastern China in preparation for the storm which left five dead in the Philippines earlier in the week after heavy rains.

The powerful typhoon - categorised as a "super typhoon" by some regional weather bureaus - was moving northwest of Miyako island of the Okinawan island chain on Friday afternoon, with recorded gusts of 234 kilometres per hour, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The typhoon is expected to keep moving northward, bringing rainstorms and waves as high as 12 metres at sea, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.

As trees were uprooted and buildings battered at least 23 people were injured and 180 evacuated across the area, the Tokyo Broadcasting System broadcaster reported.

The meteorological agency warned that strong winds and high waves would continue to pound the island chain where 42,000 households have been left without power.

The storm left five dead in the Philippines, including three children, as it swept through from Tuesday with flooding almost a metre deep in the northern island of Luzon and 1,500 people displaced.

Chan-hom began to bear down on Taiwan Friday, where the weather bureau categorised it as a "severe typhoon".

Four people have been injured so far, all of them by falling trees.

"The speed of winds and the amount of rainfall in the north and northeast have been on the rise in the past few hours," Taiwan's weather bureau said.

A number of flights in and out of Okinawa and northern Taiwan have been cancelled.

China's National Meteorological Center issued a red alert, the highest, on Friday morning for Chan-Hom, according to state news agency Xinhua.

The storm is due to pass northern Taiwan overnight before making landfall on the east coast of mainland China.

Nearly 20,000 people have been evacuated from the province of Zhejiang and 20,000 fishing vessels returned to harbour for shelter, state news agency Xinhua reported, after waves reached up to 10 metres high off the coast.

Chan-hom was expected to hit eastern China's coastline early Saturday and is forecast to change course and head northeast toward Shanghai and the Korean peninsula.

Hot on the heels of Chan-hom, Typhoon Nangka was swelling over the Pacific Ocean Friday and is expected to travel northwest towards Japan's Ryukyu Islands in the coming days. The Japan Meteorological Agency described the intensity of the storm as "very strong".

Hong Kong had been braced Thursday for severe tropical storm Linfa but it weakened after making landfall on the coast of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong and skirted the city late at night making little impact.