PINGTUNG (Oct 5): Typhoon Koinu left at least one person dead today as it grazed Taiwan’s southern tip, lashing the island with the strongest winds it has ever recorded and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes.
Koinu made landfall on the island’s southernmost Cape Eluanbi this morning and was weakening as it moved into the Taiwan Strait by 3pm (0700 GMT), according to the Central Weather Administration.
Authorities said an 84-year-old woman died in her home in western Taichung city after she was injured by glass shattered due to the gales.
Pan Huang Kui-chun, a 68-year-old temple keeper in southern Pingtung county — the typhoon’s epicentre — said it was “terrifying” watching powerful winds bring down power poles.
“It nearly dismantled my house. I had to move all my deities to the side,” he told AFP.
“This time, the typhoon was especially big. Really big. The wind was really strong. And it blew for a very long time. It took a long time for it to pass.”
Overnight, the eastern volcanic islet of Orchid Island — home mostly to fishermen and farmers — experienced wind gusts equivalent to 342.72 kilometres per hour as Koinu moved west towards Taiwan’s southern tip, according to the Central Weather Administration.
“The maximum wind gusts of 95.2 metres per second measured in Orchid Island last night is a new record in Taiwan,” a forecaster told AFP.
Local media said around 2,400 homes on Orchid Island were without power, while the classrooms of an elementary school were damaged by the powerful gales.
Authorities had closed schools and offices today in anticipation of Koinu’s impact.
Taiwan experiences frequent tropical storms from May to November.
Experts say climate change has made the paths of tropical storms harder to forecast while increasing their intensity — leading to heavy rains, flash floods and strong gusts.
Downed power lines
Rain-drenched streets were deserted today in Taiwan’s southern Taitung and Pingtung counties, with strong winds knocking over street signs and tearing off metal roofing.
Nearly 300 people were injured, the government said without providing any further details. Local media said some injuries were caused by falling trees.
Across Taiwan, nearly 330,000 homes temporarily lost power, with authorities still working to restore electricity to about 70,000 households as of this afternoon.
Downed electricity lines littered the roadside in Pingtung as work crews attempted to bring in fresh poles by truck. A supervisor told AFP it would take at least two days to restore the power.
More than 200 international and domestic flights were cancelled, while nearly 3,000 people in mostly mountainous regions were evacuated as a precaution.
Koinu comes about a month after Taiwan suffered its first direct hit in four years as Typhoon Haiku forced nearly 8,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
Koinu is expected to weaken as it moves towards the coastal waters of China’s eastern Guangdong province, according to the weather observatory in nearby Hong Kong.
The Chinese city, which was skirted by a typhoon last month before days later being flooded by the heaviest rainfall in 140 years, issued its lowest typhoon signal on Wednesday night. – AFP