[TAIPEI] A powerful typhoon battered Taiwan on Saturday with strong wind and torrential rain, cutting power to nearly three million households and killing four people.
By mid-day, as the eye of Typhoon Soudelor passed Taiwan, four people were missing and 64 injured and hundreds of flights delayed or cancelled, authorities said. More than 7,500 people have been evacuated.
The storm made landfall early in the morning on the island's east-coast counties of Yilan and Hualien, bringing up to 1,000 mm of rain in mountainous northeastern areas and wind gusting up to 200 kph (124 mph). "This is one of the worst typhoons I have ever seen," said a sewage station engineer surnamed Jiang, who was inspecting pumping stations early on Saturday. "My car was shaking when I was driving. There are too many trees down, and I even saw six downed power poles." A rescue worker was killed by a passing car as he tried to clear downed branches from a road and a foreign worker died when he was hit by a falling sign, authorities said.
As the storm approached over the Pacific Ocean on Friday, a child and an adult were killed in rough seas off the coast of Yilan.
In the capital, Taipei, large steel sheets and rods were blown off a half-constructed stadium and city authorities shut down a growing number of bus and subway services.
Authorities issued flood and mudslide alerts and television showed a fallen wind turbine, mudslides trapping people, and flood nearly covering the roofs of cars in some areas.
More rain and wind has been forecast for late Saturday and Sunday.
Taiwan Power, the island's main power company, said 2.94 million households had lost power. While some supplies had been restored, two million households were still without power on Saturday afternoon, the company said.
Authorities began evacuating people as the storm approached and the island's military put tens of thousands of troops and thousands of vehicles on stand-by for rescue operations.
The Tropical Storm Risk website said the typhoon was a category 2 storm on Saturday, on a scale of 1 to 5, and could weaken to a category 1 as it leaves Taiwan.
Soudelor has drawn comparisons with 2009's Typhoon Morakot, which cut a wide path of destruction over southern Taiwan, leaving about 700 people dead or missing and causing US$3 billion worth of damage.
Soudelor is expected to cross the Taiwan Strait and hit the Chinese province of Fujian late on Saturday. Authorities there have evacuated people on the coast.
Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea and Pacific, picking up strength from warm waters before losing strength over land.