Typhoon Soudelor has battered Taiwan with fierce winds and rain, leaving six people dead and a trail of devastation as continues its path towards mainland China.

After making landfall on the east coast in the early hours of Saturday morning, it swept across central Taiwan ripping up trees, snapping wind turbines and triggering a landslide in one remote village in the northern region of Taoyuan.

"Flash mudslides surged into the village. About 10 of the homes were half buried but people were evacuated last night and are in safe shelters," a spokesman for Taoyuan fire agency told the AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera weather presenter Everton Fox said that as of 1300 GMT, the typhoon has weakened, but heavy rainfall is expected to continue.   

An eight-year-old girl and her mother became the first casualties when they were swept out to sea [AP]

At 9:30am local time on Saturday, more than two million households were without power and 80,000 more were without water, according to the Taiwanese national disaster reponse centre.

The Central Weather Bureau said the storm brought with it wind gusts of up to 208km/h, and a sustained wind speed of 173km/h. 

Authorities said six people had died in the storm including a firefighter in southern Pintung county and a man in the coastal town of Suao who was hit by a falling billboard.

An eight-year-old girl and her mother became the first casualties when they were swept out to sea and died as the storm approached.

Thousands have been evacuated across the country, with 1,300 people in temporary shelters across the island. All schools and workplaces were shut on Saturday.

Taiwan had several days to prepare for the typhoon, which has been tracked from space by international space agencies.

Soudelor has drawn comparisons to Typhoon Morakot in 2009 which blocked roads, levelled villages and killed dozens.

Typhoons are common at this time of year in the South China Sea and Pacific, picking up strength from warm waters before losing strength over land.

As Taiwan prepared to take a direct hit from the typhoon, residents of Saipan - a US territory in the Pacific - were dealing with its devastation five days ago.

In an El Nino year such as this, tropical cyclones are born in this part of the Pacific. This is not the first time this year that the islands of the Marianas, Micronesia and the Marshalls have been damaged by adolescent typhoons.

The last time a major El Nino occurred, causing the formation of 12 super typhoons in the western Pacific, was 1997 – almost 20 years ago. Six have formed so far this year.

As of Saturday evening in Taiwan, the typhoon has weakened but heavy rainfall is expected to continue as it heads to mainland China [The Associated Press]

Soudelor has drawn comparisons to Typhoon Morakot in 2009, which blocked roads, levelled villages and killed dozens [Reuters] 

Typhoon Soudelor as shown heading towards Taiwan earlier this week [AFP]

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies