August 8, 2015
By Julie Makinen
BEIJING — Typhoon Soudelor hit on Taiwan before daybreak Saturday, lashing the island with torrential rain and winds up to 150 mph. At lease six people were killed and nearly 3 million households lost power.
Schools and businesses across Taiwan were closed Saturday as the storm moved westward over the island. Taiping Mountain, in Yilan County on the island’s northeast side, got 4.2 feet of rain in less than 48 hours, the Central Weather Bureau said. That’s as much as the area normally receives in half a year, officials said.
“Extreme torrential rain,” defined as 1.6 feet of precipitation in 24 hours, was reported in all parts of Taiwan, except for the outlying Kinmen and Lienchiang counties and certain parts of Taipei. The wind was so strong it reportedly blew a cargo train in Nanao in Yilan County off the tracks and overturned it. In Kaohsiung, an 880-pound Buddha statue was blown from its pedestal, the Central News Agency said.
Among the dead were a young girl and her mother, who were swept out to sea; the girl’s twin sister also was missing, the agency reported. A man was swept down a river to his death in the central part of the island, and a firefighter who was trying to clear a downed tree from a road was killed by a drunken driver, the agency said. Another man was killed by a falling signboard. A motorcyclist was killed when ran into a fallen tree.
Saturday’s typhoon stood out because its “force was really big” compared with previous storms, a media official with the Taiwan government’s disaster response command center said. Taiwan braces for typhoons every year from July through October.
More than 185 people were hit by wind-blown signboards, falling trees or broken glass, said Lee Wei-sen, secretary general of the government’s National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction. Trees were upturned across the island, and mudslides were reported in some mountain areas.
“Compared to the past, this typhoon breaks several records,” Lee said. “The wind was very strong, and that has caused damage to light residential structures.”
At one point, 3.22 million households were without electricity, authorities said — the largest outage attributed to a typhoon in Taiwan. By midafternoon, power had been restored to about half of those people, with 1.68 million still without service.
Train and ferry services were suspended, and all 279 domestic flights were canceled Saturday, as well as at least 37 international flights as winds up to 90 mph were reported at Taipei’s Taoyuan airport.
Huge waves pounded fishing ports on the island’s eastern side as the storm approached Friday. Soldiers had evacuated some residents from areas that were expected to be hardest hit.
The storm was moving toward the Chinese mainland and bringing tropical-storm force winds to the eastern seaboard.
Authorities in southeast China ordered the evacuation of more than 163,000 people and ships back to port ahead of the typhoon, which was expected to hit Fujian province on Saturday night. More than 7,000 soldiers and police officers were on standby, provincial authorities said.
(Special correspondent Ralph Jennings in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.)