Typhoon Koinu devastates Orchid Island before making landfall on southern tip of Taiwan: record wind gusts recorded before anemometer destroyed

Typhoon Koinu caused devastating damage on Orchid Island last night, before making landfall on the Hengchun Peninsula at 8:20 am this morning, Thursday, October 5.

Orchid Island, situated 90 kilometers off the east coast, was the first place in Taiwan to bear the brunt of the typhoon when the eye passed over the island last night. Communications with the island remained cut off this morning. Former legislator Lai Kuncheng said that out of dozens of calls, he managed to make intermittent contact with two people who sent pictures showing a collapsed house, an overturned car, and fuel bowsers blown away from the island’s single gas station. Residents are reported to be without running water or electricity.

overturned car on Orchid Island
Orchid Island was the first place to bear the brunt of Typhoon Koinu. Picture: Lai Kuncheng.

A wind gust of 95.2 meters per second (342.7 kilometers per hour) was recorded at the Orchid Island weather station, the highest wind speed recorded in the 126-year meteorological history of Taiwan. The previous record was 89.8 meters per second (323.28 kilometers per hour) set during Typhoon Alexis in 1984. Fifteen minutes after measuring the record wind gust, the weather station’s anemometer broke.

According to reports, around 80% of fishing boats moored in Kaiyuan Fishing Port have overturned or sunk, dealing a devastating blow to the local economy.

boats in Kaiyuan fishing port after typhoon koinu
Boats in Kaiyuan Fishing Port

On the Hengchun Peninsula, which forms the southernmost tip of the main island of Taiwan, wind gusts up to 58 meters per second (208 kilometers per hour) were recorded at the Jiupeng weather station. A large number of utility poles were blown down, leaving at least 23,000 households in six townships without power, according to state power supplier Taipower.

powerlines down in Pingtung County
Powerlines down in Pingtung County. Picture: Manzhou Township Office.

Strong gusts were also felt in central Taiwan. In Taichung City, damaged powerlines caused more than 19,000 households to lose power. There were more than 2,000 still without power as of 9:00 am. A 34-year-old man was seriously injured when power lines fell in Dajia District, hitting the man’s motorcycle at around 5:15 pm yesterday. Another motorcyclist was injured by falling power lines in Yunlin County, and in Kaohsiung City, two women suffered minor injuries when they were knocked off a motor scooter by falling branches.

According to the Central Disaster Response Center, at around noon today, 224,396 households have been affected by power outages, and 190 injuries have been reported so far.

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