TAIPEI: A medium-strength typhoon, the most severe of the year, began enveloping Taiwan on Friday, forcing flights to be cancelled and ports to close as winds gusted up to 180 kph (112 mph).
Typhoon Morakot, listed as a category 2 storm on a 1-5 scale by the Tropical Storm Risk forecasting service, had caused no injuries by mid-morning local time, but most domestic flights and some international ones had been grounded, authorities said.
Morakot will move on to southeastern Chinese coastal areas by Saturday after weakening to a category 1 typhoon, Tropical Storm Risk said on its website (www.tropicalstormrisk.com).
Ten international flights had been cancelled at the main airport serving Taipei. Taiwan's major seaports, Kaohsiung and Keelung, closed late on Thursday due to high winds, harbour officials said.
Service on the Taipei-to-Kaohsiung high-speed rail line was also halted due to high winds, officials said.
Taipei's stock and forex markets closed on Friday, while students and workers across the island took a government-ordered day off.
Morakot reached the island during the night, with sustained winds of up to 144 kph (89 mph) and heavy rain expected by afternoon, the weather bureau and disaster authorities said. Nearly 500 mm (19 inches) of rain had already fallen in some mountain areas.
Local television showed images of minor building damage and pedestrians struggling against the wind.
"We need to see how this storm develops, especially the rainfall and wind speeds in the afternoon," said Lee Ching-an, a disaster centre team leader. "But so far, no major incidents."
Two major typhoons reached Taiwan last year, including a slow-moving storm that brought more than 1,100 mm (43 inches) of rain and killed 12 people.