Typhoon Haikui makes landfall in Taiwan
Typhoon Haikui made landfall on eastern Taiwan Sunday, unleashing torrential downpours, whipping winds and plunging thousands of households into darkness as the first major storm to directly hit the island in four years.
Nearly 4,000 people were evacuated from high-risk areas, hundreds of flights cancelled and businesses closed in preparation for the storm.
Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau said in a press conference the typhoon was “at our doorstep” and by 3:40 pm (0740 GMT) confirmed to AFP it had made landfall in coastal Taitung, a mountainous county in lesser-populated eastern Taiwan.
Residents hunkered down indoors in the dark, staying away from windows as strong gusts of wind sent toppled trees and dislodged water tanks flying in the air, according to an AFP reporter.
“I think this time it is serious,” said retired mechanic Chang Jhi-ming, 58, in Taitung.
“This is just beginning, the wind is just coming in and you can see trees toppling already.”
The typhoon has gathered speed since yesterday, and at 3:00 pm was packing sustained winds of about 154 kilometers (95 miles) per hour.
“Rain and wind will be most intense and its impact will be most obvious during this period” after landfall, said a spokesperson with the weather bureau, adding that the typhoon will move into the Taiwan Strait by Monday evening.
Across the island, more than 21,000 hosueholds lost power, and while most resumed by mid-afternoon, about 9,000 were still without electricity when Haikui hit — including in Taitung.
Authorities have reported two minor injuries in Hualien county — a mountainous region which was issued a warning for flash floods — after a fallen tree hit a car.
The last major storm to hit Taiwan was Typhoon Bailu in 2019, which left one person dead.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Haikui would be the first in four years to cross the Central Mountain Range running north to south of the island — a path that could lead to landslides in surrounding counties.
“I remind the people to make preparations for the typhoon and watch out for your safety, avoid going out or any dangerous activities,” President Tsai said.
- ‘Big winds’ –
The streets in Hualien were deserted Sunday, battered by unrelenting rain, while a fishing harbor in northeastern coastal Yilan county saw towering waves slam against the shore.
In Taitung, before Haikui landed, ripped up trees already littered the streets, street signs swayed under the strong winds and a restaurant owner tied down his signpost advertising seafood.
“I almost forgot what it’s like to be in a typhoon. What big winds!” restaurant owner Huang Jun-tong said, adding that when he woke up this morning he immediately went to his shop to make sure everything was protected.
“Yesterday, it was so calm that we did not feel like a typhoon was coming. Today, we feel it,” he told AFP.
The military had mobilized soldiers and equipment — such as amphibious vehicles and inflatable rubber boats — around the parts of Taiwan where Haikui is expected to have the heaviest impact.
But it is expected to be less severe than Saola, which bypassed Taiwan but triggered the highest threat level in nearby Hong Kong and southern China before it weakened into a tropical storm by Saturday.
by Sean CHANG and Amber WANG
©️ Agence France-Presse