Typhoon Koinu grazed the southern edge of Taiwan on Thursday, blanketing the region in torrential rain and bringing record-breaking winds of more than 340 kilometres an hour to an outlying island.
The eastern volcanic islet of Orchid Island -- mostly home to fishermen and farmers -- saw gusts equivalent to 342.72 kilometres (212 miles) per hour overnight as Koinu moved west towards Taiwan’s southern tip, according to the Central Weather Administration.
“The maximum wind gusts of 95.2 metres per second measured in Orchid Island last night is a new record in Taiwan,” the forecaster told AFP.
Koinu was initially expected to hit the island’s southern tip directly, but “its course has veered further south”, the forecaster said, adding that the storm could move out to sea.
Experts say climate change has made the paths of tropical storms harder to forecast while increasing their intensity -- leading to heavy rains, flash floods and strong gales.
Taiwan experiences frequent tropical storms from May to November, and on Thursday it had closed schools and offices in anticipation of Koinu’s impact.
More than 200 international and domestic flights were cancelled, while nearly 3,000 people in mountainous regions were evacuated as a precaution.
Residents living in the southern county of Taitung had stocked up on food ahead of the typhoon.
“We live in the mountains and have to drive some distance to come here. That’s why we thought we better stock up just in case,” 26-year-old Meng Xin told AFP.
Streets were deserted on Thursday as rains drenched the region, with strong winds knocking over street signs and tearing off metal roofing.
A 7-11 convenience store had taped up its glass windows and doors to prevent breakage.
Koinu comes about a month after Taiwan saw a direct hit by Typhoon Haiku -- the first in four years -- which forced nearly 8,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
It is expected to weaken as it moves towards the coastal waters of China’s eastern Guangdong province.
The Chinese territory -- which last month was skirted by a typhoon before being flooded by the heaviest rainfall in 140 years days later -- issued its lowest typhoon signal last night.