Mass evacuations, cancelled flights as storm plunges thousands of households into darkness.
Typhoon Haikui has made landfall in eastern Taiwan, unleashing torrential downpours, whipping up fierce winds and plunging thousands of households into darkness.
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 had earlier said the typhoon was “at our doorstep” and by 3:40pm (07:40 GMT) on Sunday, it confirmed 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 AFP news agency reports.
“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 households 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 that was issued a warning for flash floods after a fallen tree hit a car.
Taiwan’s biggest storm since 2019
The last major storm to hit Taiwan was Typhoon Bailu in 2019, which killed one person.
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.
The military had mobilised soldiers and equipment – such as amphibious vehicles and inflatable rubber boats – around the parts of Taiwan where Haikui is expected to have the maximum effect.
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.