THE year’s strongest storm dubbed Super Typhoon Meranti has barreled past Taiwan’s southern tip, reports say, bringing with it record strong winds and heavy rains that knocked out power for tens of thousands of homes.
Videos of the storm posted on social media sites show winds ripping through Taiwan’s southern and eastern cities, leaving in its wake torn down buntings and hoardings along the streets, along with power cables and trees.
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A Reuters report said Meranti grew in strength as it neared the Taiwan coast, carrying maximum winds of 216 kilometers per hour (134 mph).
“This typhoon is the world’s strongest so far this year. Its impact on Taiwan will peak all day today,” weather bureau spokeswoman Hsieh Pei-yun was quoted saying.
A Channel News Asia report said as at 0215 GMT, Meranti was about 30km southwest of the Henchun township, packing wind speeds up to 263 kilometers per hour.
Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau had earlier sounded a warning on the typhoon, saying the Category 5 storm was estimated to hit certain cities, including Kaohsiung and Hualien, causing some damage.
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Quoting Taiwan Power Co, Reuters said power went out for nearly 200,000 households. Taipei-based Sanlih E-Television, however, claimed that this number was a staggering 12.7 million households, mostly in the Pingtung, Taitung and Hualien counties, according to Weather.com.
Companies and schools in the affected cities have also closed and some 1,500 residents evacuated, it added, quoting the Central Emergency Operation Centre.
Domestic flights have also been suspended, while international flights severely affected.
In Taiwan, the peak of the storm is expected to last through to Thursday.
According to AccuWeather, Meranti is the strongest typhoon in the Western Pacific since Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, which was categorized as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the world. During Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippines, more than 6,000 people were recorded dead.
Meranti reached “super typhoon” status on Monday, having sustained wind speeds of up to 305 kilometers per hour. A super typhoon is classified when winds hit at least 240 kilometers per hour.
Meanwhile in China, the Hong Kong Observatory issued a typhoon standby signal No. 1 at 10.10am Wednesday, the South China Morning Post reported.
It said Meranti is expected to be closest to Hong Kong Thursday morning, coming within 400km east of the city.