x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Japanese islands of Okinawa pounded by typhoon

Strongest storm to hit Okinawa in years leaves 30,000 homes without power as wind speed reaches 252kph.

High waves pound the seawall in Yonabarucho, Okinawa. Residents were warned to stay indoors and that wind gusts could overturn cars and cause waves of up to 12 metres.
High waves pound the seawall in Yonabarucho, Okinawa. Residents were warned to stay indoors and that wind gusts could overturn cars and cause waves of up to 12 metres.

TOKYO // The strongest typhoon to hit Okinawa in several years lashed the southern Japanese island and surrounding areas yesterday, injuring four people and cutting off power to about 30,000 households.

Residents were told to stay indoors and warned that the storm's powerful winds could overturn cars and cause waves up to 12 metres high.

The center of slow-moving Typhoon Bolaven was expected to pass over the island last night, dumping as much as 500 millimeters of rain in 24 hours, weather experts said.

About 27,000 households on the island of Amami, north of Okinawa, were without electricity, and 3,100 on Okinawa also lost power.

Video footage from Naha, the prefectural capital, showed trees thrashed by the high winds, some with broken branches, and largely empty streets.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said wind speeds near the center of the typhoon were about 180 kilometres per hour, with extremely strong gusts reaching 252 kph.

Those winds could knock over telephone poles and overturn cars, while waves around the island could top 12 metres, the public broadcaster NHK warned.

All domestic and international flights in and out of Naha Airport were cancelled.

Okinawa disaster authorities said four people had been injured.

The typhoon, the 15th of the season, was expected to continue into the East China Sea without losing much power and then into the Yellow Sea, possibly affecting southern coastal areas of South Korea by Tuesday, Japanese weather forecasters said.

Gusts from the typhoon could equal or surpass the previous record for Naha of 265 kph, set by a 1956 typhoon, said Tsukasa Uezu, an official with the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory Weather Information Center.

The storm's relatively slow movement - 15 kph to the northwest - meant "exposure to wind and rain will be that much longer", and raised the possibility of serious damage, said Shun Miyagi from the Okinawa Disaster Prevention and Crisis Management Center.

More than half of the 50,000 US troops based in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. At Kadena Air Base, one of the biggest bases on the island, all the shops and service facilities were ordered to close and movement around the base was being kept to a minimum.

Meanwhile, residents of Taiwan were warned yesterday that Typhoon Tembin was likely to return. It came as people struggled to clear their mud-filled homes after the storm had pounded the south of the island with the heaviest rains in more than a century.

The storm appeared to be heading back towards Pingtung county, where people were still reeling from the flooding caused by Tembin when it swept across the southern tip of the island on Friday.

Tembin had weakened to a tropical storm after moving out to sea the same day but the Central Weather Bureau said it had intensified into a typhoon again yesterday.