Parts of Taiwan came to a standstill Wednesday as super typhoon Meranti brought the strongest winds in 21 years, while China issued a red alert for waves as the storm bore down on the mainland.

Meranti brought violent winds and torrential rain to eastern and southern Taiwan as it skirted past the island’s southern tip, with Hengchun’s observation station recording the strongest winds in its 120-year history according to Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau.


The typhoon, which was moving northwest into the Taiwan Strait, is expected to make landfall in Southern China on Thursday in Fujian and Guangdong provinces, the country’s official Xinhua news agency said.

Authorities have initiated a class-II emergency response, the second highest.

Residents were told to stay indoors while ships were ordered to head back to harbour as monster waves were expected. China’s National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center upgraded its warning level for ocean waves to “red”, the highest in a four-tiered, colour-coded warning system, Xinhua reported.

At 1000 GMT, Meranti was 60 kilometres (37 miles) south-southwest of Taiwan’s Penghu island, packing gusts of up to 227 kilometres per hour.

“It is the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan in 21 years in terms of maximum sustained wind near the centre,” said forecaster Hsieh Pei-yun.

Southern Kenting, a tourist destination known for its white sand beaches, was battered by winds and floods.

Residents in a fishing port in southern Taitung county woke up to find that a small lighthouse had disappeared and believed that powerful winds blew it into the sea, as waves almost 10 metres high lashed the shore in the area, reports said.

Trucks were overturned and roofs were blown off while electricity poles and trees were uprooted by winds in some southern areas.

In the port city of Kaohsiung, at least 10 cargo ships broke from their anchors, including a 140,000-tonne vessel that rammed into two cargo cranes, according to local authorities.

Many cargo containers that were piled high in the port’s storage yards were blown off and scattered on the ground.

There were no reports of fatalities although nine people suffered minor injuries during the typhoon, according to the Central Emergency Operation Centre.

Armoured vehicles were sent into Pingtung county to evacuate residents as flood waters reached a metre high.

– Festival wash-out –

School and work were cancelled for most eastern and southern counties, and the typhoon knocked out power for nearly 650,000 households.

There were severe travel disruptions for the Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend, which starts Thursday, as over 300 domestic and international flights were cancelled and trains running along the east coast were halted.

More than 130 ferry services to offshore islets and to several Chinese coastal cities were also suspended, officials said.

The coastguard was forced to cancel a ceremony to launch two new ships in Kaohsiung while a maritime and defence expo in the city had been postponed, officials said.

The storm was forecast to have dumped as much as 800 millimetres (31.5 inches) of rain in mountainous areas, potentially triggering landslides.

Close to 1,500 people were evacuated from at-risk areas, with about half in temporary shelters, an official tally showed.

Another storm brewing east of the Philippines may also affect Taiwan later this week.

The weather bureau’s Hsieh said typhoon Malakas was expected to be closest to the island on Friday and Saturday, but was unlikely to make landfall.

Three people were killed and hundreds were injured in July when super typhoon Nepartak pounded Taiwan. [/restrict]