Typhoon Soudelor drenches Taiwan, churns on toward China

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Typhoon Soudelor pounded Taiwan with fierce winds and torrential rain Saturday, killing at least five people and injuring at least 185, according to Taiwan’s National Fire Agency.

Another four people remained missing as of 7 p.m. local time, said the agency, which is part of the Interior Ministry.

Those killed included a mother and her 8-year-old daughter swept out to sea, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported, adding that the girl’s twin sister is unaccounted for.

While the island continues to be drenched by heavy rains, the worst of the winds have passed and Soudelor is now churning across the sea toward mainland China.

It is forecast to weaken by the time it makes landfall in China’s Fujian province late Saturday, but is still predicted to pack hurricane-strength winds.

Soudelor made landfall in Taiwan north of the city of Hualien. Forecasters had predicted the storm would have maximum sustained winds at landfall of about 125 mph (200 kph) — the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane.

Authorities deployed more than 35,000 military personnel to relocate residents in vulnerable areas as the typhoon made its way across the Pacific Ocean.

Over a meter (39 inches) of rain has fallen already in parts of Taiwan, with as much as 1.5 to 2 meters possible by the time the storm passes in the country’s southwest, CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera said.

Flights canceled

Taiwanese airlines have announced flight adjustments, canceling a number of domestic and international flights for Saturday, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. Railways have likewise suspended high speed and regular train services, the agency said.

The Central Weather Bureau warned 16 cities and counties that they were likely to experience intense rain and powerful winds from Soudelor.

Soudelor became the strongest storm on the planet so far this year, with peak winds at 180 mph (290 kph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

Storm chaser James Reynolds told CNN from southeastern Taiwan that there had been extremely ferocious winds and blinding rain as the storm made landfall, as well as huge waves battering the coastline.

The result, he said, “was a lot of flying debris, a lot of tree damage and along the coastal areas, the waves had inundated the low-lying areas, damaging the roads in places as well as some vulnerable properties which were right by the coast.”

Video footage showed rescue workers struggling to make their way through surging, thigh-high waters, as many communities suffered mudslides and flooding.

According to state power provider Taiwan Power Co., about 1 million homes were still without electricity as of 8 p.m. local time Saturday.

Emergency crews are working to restore supply, the company said, adding that this is the biggest power outage seen on the island as a result of a typhoon.

Storm headed to China

In China, nearly 185,000 people have been moved to safer areas in Fujian province, which is expected to take a direct hit from the typhoon, state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Torrential rains over the next couple of days are likely to be a greater problem there than high winds, CNN’s Cabrera said. Heavy downpours in the course of the rainy season have already saturated the ground in places, he said.

Soudelor has already wreaked havoc in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, passing through this week, and disrupting water and electricity services.

The West Pacific Basin has seen 10 typhoons so far this year.

Of those, five have reached super-typhoon strength, meaning sustained winds of at least 150 mph (240 kph). That total is higher than the average of four for an entire year.

By Faith Karimi, Laura Smith-Spark and Steve Almasy

CNN’s Taylor Ward, Brandon Miller, Kevin Wang and journalist Wayne Chang contributed to this report.

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