Typhoon Saola
A woman walks with her umbrella against strong winds as Typhoon Saola approaches Taiwan in Taipei.

At least four people were killed and normal life was thrown out of gear as typhoon Saola caused widespread destruction in Taiwan.

Fierce winds with a speed of 155 kilometres (97 miles) an hour brought down dozens of trees and electricity poles, crippling road and rail traffic across the island nation.

Over 1,500 people were evacuated as torrential rain caused flooding in many places. Schools and offices were shut across the country except for Taidong county in the southeast. Electricity and water supply were badly affected.

Authorities have cancelled nearly 200 international and domestic flights; trading on Taiwan's stock markets was suspended, said an AFP report.

Landslides and tree falls were reported across the north and east of the country. A man was killed in mudslide in Sanhsia district in the north and a police officer drowned while patrolling the area, according to the Central Emergency Operation Centre.

The third casualty was a motorcyclist who crashed into a fallen tree in south Taiwan's Chiayi county and the fourth victim was a woman in southern Kaohsiung city.

Though the Central Weather Bureau reported weakening of Saola around 7 am local time, it warned the citizens of further landslides.

"The typhoon is somewhat losing momentum, but it will keep bringing torrential rain in many parts of Taiwan today," said an official.

The weather bureau expects heavy rainfall and winds extending to the weekend. It is the first typhoon to hit Taiwan this year.

Typhoon Saola killed at least 23 people in the Philippines and left five others injured, according to the country's National Disaster Coordinating Centre.

Saola was the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane on a scale of five - one with sustained winds of 154-177 kph (96 - 110 mph) and can cause extensive damage - when it hit Taiwan.

Saola is expected to strike China, 300 to 400 miles south of Shanghai, at about 10pm on 2 August and another typhoon -Typhoon Damrey - is predicted to strike about 150 miles north of Shanghai. The Chinese authorities have put the southern and eastern provinces of Fujian and Jiangsu on highest alert.