'Super typhoon' Dujuan batters Taiwan

Benjamin Yeh
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Coast guards keep watch near Keelung on September 28, 2015, as 'super typhoon' Dujuan approaches Taiwan

Coast guards keep watch near Keelung on September 28, 2015, as 'super typhoon' Dujuan approaches Taiwan (AFP Photo/Sam Yeh)

Super-typhoon Dujuan battered Taiwan leaving 24 injured as torrential rain and fierce winds hit Monday evening, while China issued its top alert as the storm approached the mainland.

Dujuan struck the island's northeastern tip earlier than expected after picking up speed as it approached, with more than 7,000 people evacuated in advance.

Most of the 24 people hurt suffered minor injuries, the island's Emergency Operation Center said, many of them hit by flying debris.

More than 330,000 homes are without electricity after almost a million lost power at the height of the storm, the emergency centre said.

About 2,000 people were spending the night in temporary shelters.

Waves crashed along the east coast and the capital Taipei was hit with wind and rain as the typhoon moved south.

At 9:00 pm (1300 GMT) Dujuan was 30 kilometres (19 miles) southeast of central Taichung city, the Central Weather Bureau said.

The bureau said "virtually the whole island" was at risk of severe wind and rain, with authorities warning downpours could trigger landslides.

Dujuan made landfall in the northern county of Yilan, where some areas have seen more than 700 millimetres (20 inches) of rain in the last 24 hours.

Panicked visitors to the island's east -- many of whom had headed there for the Mid-Autumn Festival long weekend -- crammed onto trains before services were suspended.

High-speed rail services in the west were also cancelled.

Authorities warned that coastal areas could be particularly dangerous as tides are affected by the current "supermoon" -- a rare astrological event in which the moon appears brighter and larger.

This is because the moon has reached its closest orbital point to Earth and therefore has a stronger gravitational pull than usual.

The storm intensified as it approached Taiwan, with gusts of 227 kilometres (141 miles) per hour.

It slowed after making landfall and was expected to move past Taiwan by midnight.

Schools and offices will shut Tuesday and the stock market will also be closed.

- Damage threat -

Dujuan was graded a "strong typhoon" -- the top category -- by Taiwan's weather bureau while other regional forecasters, including the Hong Kong Observatory, categorised it as a "super typhoon".

China issued a red alert, its highest, for Dujuan.

Heavy rain and gales are set to hit parts of Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center as saying.

The centre instructed ships' crews to return to harbour and residents to stay indoors.

Almost 3,000 people were evacuated Sunday from Taiwan's Green Island and Orchid Island -- popular with visitors.

More than 4,000 were moved Monday ahead of the storm.

New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu said they were from vulnerable areas, including the hot springs town of Wulai just outside Taipei.

Aboriginal mountain communities are particularly at risk during typhoons, often affected by flooding and mudslides.

Wulai was hit hard by Typhoon Soudelor in August, with some residents unable to return home for weeks.

Shops and hotels have remained closed as roads and flood damage have yet to be fully repaired.

"To be honest, we all feel very depressed. Any damage may further prolong the time needed for reconstruction," Chou Chih-kang, a Wulai neighbourhood chief, told AFP.

By Monday night Wulai had already seen 600 mm of rain in 24 hours.

The weather bureau warned that the "massive amount" of rubble on mountain slopes and riverbeds since Soudelor could lead to further damage.

More than 24,000 troops were on standby for disaster relief and evacuations, with 100 shelters set up.

A concert by US rock band Bon Jovi due to take place in Taipei Monday was cancelled, while 241 international and 144 domestic flights were also pulled.

Ferry services and flights to outlying islands were suspended.

Dujuan passed near the Japanese island of Ishigaki as it approached Taiwan.

Around 100 domestic flights were cancelled in Japan, while 3,200 households lost power in Ishigaki and other islands, local media said.

Typhoon Soudelor caused at least eight deaths in Taiwan last month and killed 21 people in China.