Ilan (Taiwan): Typhoon Saola pounded Taiwan with fierce winds and torrential rain that left six people dead and forced nearly the entire island to shut down on Thursday, rescuers and media said.

Nearly 200 international and domestic flights were cancelled and authorities suspended trading on financial markets due to the extreme weather.

The slow-moving typhoon, which killed at least 23 people in the Philippines, lost momentum and weakened into a tropical storm after it made a second landfall in the northeast around 0600 GMT, the Central Weather Bureau said.

"The public must not relax their vigilance even though Saola has weakened into a storm over the past three hours. More torrential rains are expected in many parts of the island today," an official from the bureau warned.

More than 1.0 metre (39 inches) of rainfall has fallen in parts of the island since Tuesday, according to the bureau.

Saola made first landfall near the eastern coastal city of Hualien at 3:20 am and moved back out to sea four hours later, it said.

Saola -- the first typhoon to hit the island this year -- triggered heavy rains especially in the north and east and touched off widespread mudslides, forcing the authorities to evacuate more than 1,500 people islandwide.

(Agencies)

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