Howling gales hit Southern Taiwan

Parts of Taiwan were brought to a standstill yesterday as super-typhoon Meranti skirted past the island’s southern tip, bringing the strongest winds in 21 years and disrupting traffic ahead of a major holiday. Although Meranti did not make landfall, it brought violent winds and torrential rain to eastern and southern Taiwan. At 6pm (noon SA time), Meranti was 60km south south west of the offshore Penghu island, packing gusts of up to 227km/h. Hengchun’s observation station recorded the strongest winds in its 120-year history earlier yester -day,  Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau reported. Forecaster Hsieh Pei-yun said: “It is the strongest typhoon to hit Taiwan in 21 years in terms of maximum sustained wind near the centre.” Residents in a fishing port in southern Taitung county woke up to find that a small lighthouse had disappeared and believed that powerful winds had blown it off into the sea, as waves almost 10m high lashed the shore in the area, reports said. Trucks were overturned and roofs blown off, while electricity poles and trees were uprooted by winds in some southern areas. In the port city of Kaohsiung, at least 10 cargo ships broke from their anchors, including a 140 000-ton vessel that rammed into two cargo cranes. Many cargo containers, piled high in the port’s storage yards, were blown off and scattered. There were no reports of fatalities, although nine people had suffered minor injuries, the Central Emergency Operation Centre said.Another storm brewing east of the Philippines may also affect Taiwan later this week.