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When Typhoon Megi hit Taiwan

I visited Taiwan during Typhoon Megi in September 2016

Branches were falling off trees, down to the road below. Blocking traffic, being in the way of cars. One huge branch fell down just a meter or so in front of a car. The driver just managed to break, saw it as it came falling down. He sat still in his car seat for a long time after coming to a stop, taking deep breaths, before finally driving again. This is crazy. Driving in these conditions is crazy. And there were people out on their scooters as well! Shop signs were falling down from the walls, crashing into the street below. Any loose object could suddenly come flying through the air. And it seemed the wind was picking up. It had stopped raining, but the winds were getting stronger and stronger.

The first signs of the typhoon came the day before, on monday. My stay in Taiwan had been sunny, a little cloudy but no rain, mostly blue skies and high temperatures. On monday it started raining. Showers at first, the sun peeked through the clouds every now and then, but massive rain showers t regular intervals. For twenty minutes the sky would throw as much rain at us as it could, then the sun would appear. We would have sun for a while, then another shower. The humidity went up in the ninetees, the temperature was still over 30. You did not simply get wet from the rain, I was sweating heavily as well.

Debris from Typhoon Megi

Branches lying on the road

The showers continued throughout the day, by night it was raining more or less continuously. I was glad I had brought an umbrella. Under its protection it was only sweat I had to worry about. Every now and then I would stand in the rain, hoping to get the worst smell off. When I came home that night I had a long, good shower before going to bed. I fell asleep listening to the ever-increasing rain outside.

Typhoon Megi was just one of many typhoons to hit Taiwan in 2016. Just two weeks before a massive typhoon had hit the country, leaving infrastructure already in bad shape. The country braced for the impact of Typhoon Megi. Almost 4 million households were left without power as Megi made landfall, 14.000 people were evacuated. As the Typhoon passed Taiwan, winds passing 200 km/h, four people were killed, a number later rising to eight, and 625 people were left injured. More than 400 flights had been cancelled, the trains stopped running at several location, there was the consant risk of mudslides, the cost to the Taiwanese economy was in the billions.

I woke up late the next day, had gone to bed quite late the night before. There was a typhoon coming anyway, no point getting up only to be locked in the apartment all day. Luckily 7/Eleven was just around the corner, I could always get food there if worst came to worst, did not even have to go out in the rain. The sidewalk was covered the whole way. All day long the typhoon slammed into Taipei. Heavy rain, powerful winds, the winds were hammering against the windows of my 11th floor airbnb apartment. In the afternoon the winds seemed to slow down a bit, it appeared to rain a little less as well. I decided to brave the weather, go outside. A fellow traveller I had met the night before texted me from a bar a few stops with the Metro from my apartment. I sent him a message, told him I would come.

Damage after Typhoon Megi

An overturned tree

The Metro was almost completely empty that day. Usually there is alway people on the Taipei Metro. Maybe not as many as in Tokyo, but still hard to find an empty seat. I always ended up standing. Now there were almost no one here. One man got off the train I got on, I had the whole car to myself. After a few stations a woman got on. That was all the people I saw. It was eerie in a way. This empty metro.

Damage from Typhoon Megi

A broken street light

It stopped raining not long after I arrived at the bar. A sign that the typhoon soon was over? It did seem that way at first, then the winds started picking up. Heavier and heavier winds. We could hear the trees creaking, not able to handle the pressure. Branches started falling to the street below. Cars still out driving had to navigate huge branches on the road, as well as pay attention to the trees above. Another branch could fall down. The people on scooters seemed particularly vulnerable. Were they brave or just foolish?

Still the winds picked up. We were stuck at the bar, no way was I going out into that! Luckily the beer was half priced on tuesdays, the food was good, and I was in good company. More and more people took shelter in the bar as the winds picked up. We were all socialising and having a good time.

Typhoon Megi damaged everything in its path

Scooters damaged by Typhoon Megi

It was a lot later than I had planned to go home when the wind finally had slowed down enough that I dared to venture outside. Start heading home. The metro had stopped for the night, it was too far to walk. I hailed a taxi coming down the street. On the way home I kept looking out the window. Looking at the debris lying around. Branches that had fallen down from trees. Shop signs, street signs. Rubbish lying around. Row after row of scooters having fallen like dominoes. Parked side by side, as soon as the first one falls they all fall. And since I work for an insurance company I could not help to wonder what the costs would be, and what it would be like to work in the claims department at an insurer tomorrow.

17 thoughts on “When Typhoon Megi hit Taiwan

  1. tatumskipper

    I am in disbelief that Mother Nature can be so hurtful at times. Although this isn’t some fancy resort, or picture of a beautiful beach, this is also what comes along with travel and seeing the world. It’s not always glitz and glam. I appreciate you bringing the real side of the world to attention.

    Reply
    1. Traveltorgeir Post author

      True, travel isn’t always glitz and glam. I prefer this any day actually. Taiwan is hit with typhoons like this many times a year and experiencing one certanly was part of the ‘local’ experience :-)

      Reply
  2. ilive4travel

    I used to work for an insurance company and its weird that to think about work when something like that is going on rather than the human impact. I got caught in 2 typhoons when I was in Asia one in Hong Kong and the other as I was waiting to leave the airport in Japan. I had no idea a plane could blow around that much as it was going to the runway!!! Can’t believe you ventured out into it, not sure I would of done, if I had a choice.

    Reply
    1. Traveltorgeir Post author

      I only ventured out a bit, stayed close to the bar and behind pillars. I would never drive a scooter like the locals did :-)

      And yes, it is weird to think of the material damage, but I guess that is what work does to you!

      Reply
  3. rhiydwi

    I can’t believe the metro and taxis were still operating in a typhoon! It begs belief that in the UK we come to a standstill at the slightest hint of “strong” winds or a bit of snow, but elsewhere in the world they have insane weather conditions and just get on with it. Hiding out in a bar is the best way to go I think 😉

    Reply
    1. Traveltorgeir Post author

      It all depends on what you are used to I guess. I have experienced in the UK what we in Norway would call just a little bit of snow, but in the UK trains and planes came to a standstill. In Norway it would mean maybe a 15 minutes delayed flight due to de-icing the plane and clearing the runway.

      Taiwan is hit by may typhoons every year and have built infrastructure that can handle it better :-)

      Reply
  4. Ticker Eats The World

    So much destruction, it is always sad to see that and so brave of you to carry on whenever you could to venture out and make the most of your time there. Natural calamities are always tough to witness because as humans we can’t blame anyone else but ourselves for what the world is becoming and also a realization that things can change in an instance. Glad you were okay and I love how you wrote a thoughtful post without over dramatizing it.

    Reply
  5. Joanna

    You article reminded me of the time I visited Vietnam and got stuck in the middle of a typhoon. The aftermatch was similar. I remember that night I was stuck on a bus, with the water as high as the top of the wheels. At some point the drivers gave up and went to sleep on the floor of the bus. There was no way we would move in those conditions.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Beautiful Tamsui in Taiwan - TravelTorgeir

    1. Traveltorgeir Post author

      Wow, that must have been a bumpy flight. I was supoosed to fly from Taiwan to Japan the next day but the flight was delated for a day

      Reply
  7. FS Page

    Nature’s wrath can sometimes beat any human creation and invention. I sometimes feel so fragile and helpless against nature. The way we keep trying to tame it, It will surely take its revenge some day. And it might be worse than what you just experienced in Taipei.

    Reply

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