TAIPEI, Sept 14 Tens of thousands of homes lost
power across Taiwan on Wednesday as Super Typhoon Meranti hit
the island, a storm seen as the strongest in the world so far
this year, forcing schools and businesses to close and flights
to be cancelled.
Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau warned that the Category 5
storm would threaten several southern and eastern cities,
including Kaohsiung and Hualien, with strong winds, torrential
rain and flooding.
Meranti, which grew in strength as it neared Taiwan, was
carrying maximum winds of 216 km per hour (134 mph),
meteorologists said. Fallen power cables and trees were among
some of the early damage reported.
"This typhoon is the world's strongest so far this year,"
weather bureau spokeswoman Hsieh Pei-yun said. "Its impact on
Taiwan will peak all day today."
Companies and schools in Kaohsiung and other cities have
closed and almost 1,500 residents have been evacuated, the
Central Emergency Operation Center said in a statement.
Nearly 200,000 households were without power, according to
the Taiwan Power Co. Most domestic flights have been cancelled,
including all of those from Kaohsiung airport, where
international flights were also severely affected.
Taiwan will feel the full force of the typhoon through
Wednesday and into Thursday before the storm barrels into China,
Meranti is expected to make landfall in the southern Chinese
provinces of Guangdong and Fujian on Thursday, where authorities
were already cancelling train services and preparing to evacuate
people, state media said.
Typhoon Meranti comes just over two months after the deadly
typhoon Nepartak cut power, grounded flights and forced
thousands to flee their homes across central and southern areas
In 2009, Typhoon Morakot cut a swath of destruction through
southern Taiwan, killing about 700 people and causing up to $3
billion of damage.
(Reporting by Faith Hung; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard
in BEIJING; Editing by Paul Tait)