TAITUNG — Typhoon Koinu grazed the southern edge of Taiwan today, lashing the island with the strongest winds it has ever recorded and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes.
Koinu made landfall in the island’s southernmost Cape Eluanbi this morning and was weakening as it moved 80 kilometres off the coast by 1.00pm local time, according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration.
Pan Huang Kui-chun, a 68-year-old temple keeper in southern Pingtung county, said it was “terrifying” watching powerful winds bring down power poles in his neighbourhood.
“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.”
“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 some 2,400 homes on Orchid Island were without power, while the classrooms of an elementary school were damaged by the powerful gales.
Taiwan experiences frequent tropical storms from May to November. Authorities had closed schools and offices on Thursday in anticipation of Koinu’s impact.
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.
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.
Around 190 people were injured, the government said without providing any further details. Local media said some injuries were caused by falling trees.
Across Taiwan, more than 300,000 homes temporarily lost power, with authorities still working to restore electricity to about 80,000 households.
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 a direct hit from Typhoon Haiku, the first in four years and which forced nearly 8,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
It 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 territory, which was skirted by a typhoon last month before being flooded by the heaviest rainfall in 140 years days later, issued its lowest typhoon signal on Wednesday night.