Typhoon Koinu brushes past Taiwan with lashing rain; one dead

PINGTUNG, Taiwan (Reuters) -Typhoon Koinu brushed past southern Taiwan on Thursday, killing one person, injuring 304 and causing localised damage, as lashing rains and strong winds forced millions of people in a swathe of cities to miss work and school.

Koinu, which means “puppy” in Japanese, made landfall on Taiwan’s Hengchun peninsula as a category four typhoon – indicating winds of up to 252 kph (156 mph) – but it weakened as it crossed into the Taiwan Strait and headed towards China’s Guangdong province, according to Tropical Storm Risk.

The heaviest rain fell in mountainous and sparsely populated parts of Pingtung county in the south, and the east coast counties of Taitung and Hualien, but the typhoon also affected the major southern port city of Kaohsiung.

Most cities and counties declared a day off work and school though the island’s capital, Taipei, home to financial markets, was not affected and was operating as normal.

Chipmaker TSMC said its factories were also working normally.

The typhoon entered the Taiwan Strait late on Thursday morning and heavy rain was forecast to last into Friday, mostly in the island’s south and east.

Taiwan’s fire department reported one death from a person hit by flying glass in the central city of Taichung, and 304 injuries across the island, as well as some damage to buildings and downed trees.

More damage was reported on Orchid Island off Taitung’s coast in the Pacific Ocean, home to about 5,000 people, with pictures on social media showing cars blown off roads, fishing boats sunk in a harbour and smashed school windows.

Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said a weather tracking station on Orchid Island recorded Taiwan’s strongest wind in 126 years as the typhoon hit late Wednesday.

Taiwan’s two main domestic airlines, UNI Air and Mandarin Airlines, cancelled most their flights for Thursday, while ferries to outlying islands were also stopped.

A total of 46 international flights were cancelled, the transport ministry said, but the high speed rail connecting northern and southern Taiwan was not affected.

(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Carlos Garcia; Writing by Ben Blanchard. Editing by Gerry Doyle)