Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Haikui would be the first in four years to cross the Central Mountain Range running north to south of the island – a path that could lead to landslides in surrounding counties.
“I remind the people to make preparations for the typhoon and watch out for your safety, avoid going out or any dangerous activities,” President Tsai said.
The streets in Hualien were deserted Sunday, battered by unrelenting rain, while a fishing harbour in northeastern coastal Yilan county saw towering waves slam against the shore.
In Taitung, before Haikui landed, ripped-up trees already littered the streets, street signs swayed under the strong winds and a restaurant owner tied down his signpost advertising seafood.
“I almost forgot what it’s like to be in a typhoon. What big winds!” restaurant owner Huang Jun-tong said, adding that when he woke up this morning he immediately went to his shop to make sure everything was protected.
“Yesterday, it was so calm that we did not feel like a typhoon was coming. Today, we feel it,” he told AFP.
The military had mobilised soldiers and equipment – such as amphibious vehicles and inflatable rubber boats – around the parts of Taiwan where Haikui is expected to have the heaviest impact.
But it is expected to be less severe than Saola, which bypassed Taiwan but triggered the highest threat level in nearby Hong Kong and southern China before it weakened into a tropical storm by Saturday.