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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Typhoon Trami injures dozens despite downgrade from 'extremely strong' as it batters Japan

Up to 1,000 flights have been cancelled due to airport closure and trains were stopped for the fist time

An overturned car from the strong winds generated by Typhoon Trami, in Kitanakagusuku, the southern island of Okinawa, Japan. EPA
An overturned car from the strong winds generated by Typhoon Trami, in Kitanakagusuku, the southern island of Okinawa, Japan. EPA

A powerful typhoon lashed Japan's mainland Sunday after injuring dozens on outlying islands, bringing transport grinding to a halt and triggering warnings of fierce winds, torrential rain, landslides and floods.

Typhoon Trami has already snarled travel in the world's third-biggest economy, with bullet train services suspended, more than 1,000 flights cancelled and Tokyo's evening train services scrapped. It is the first time East Japan Railway Co., which operates major rail lines in Tokyo, has taken such action, national broadcaster NHK reported.

Typhoon Trami lost some strength after making landfall near Tanabe City, 450 km southwest of Tokyo, earlier in the evening, prompting the Japan Meteorological Agency to downgrade it to a "strong" typhoon from an "extremely strong" one.

In total, 75 people have sustained minor injuries – mainly cuts from shattered glass – and one woman was reported missing in the Miyazaki region, which was drenched by record rainfall and suffered localised flooding.

According to local media, the woman in her 60s was swept away by gusts in a gutter while working with her husband in their rice field.

Nationwide, authorities have issued non-compulsory evacuation advisories to 1.5 million residents, according to public broadcaster NHK, and officials urged people across the country to stay indoors.

Nearly 500,000 households in the western region of Kyushu and Okinawa have lost power, local utilities said.

Violent gusts and heavy rain made it impossible to venture outside, said Yuji Ueno, an official in the town of Shirahama in Wakayama prefecture near Tanabe city.

"From around 2 pm, we saw incredible winds and rain. I stepped outside the city hall in the afternoon, and the rain was swirling in the very strong wind. Enormous wind."

"It was difficult to stay standing. It was very scary," Mr Ueno said.

As the typhoon barrelled east, rail authorities took the highly unusual step of cancelling evening train services in Tokyo, one of the world's busiest networks, urging passengers to shelter indoors when the storm hits.

The typhoon is not expected to hit the capital head-on but strong winds and heavy rain are still feared from late Sunday. Some businesses were already putting up shutters and hunkering down.

Trami is the latest in a string of extreme natural events in Japan, which has suffered typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and heatwaves in recent months, claiming scores of lives and causing extensive damage.

Classed as a "strong" typhoon, Trami pounded Kagoshima on the western tip of Japan early Sunday, causing minor injuries -- such as cuts from broken windows and people knocked over by gusts.

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Osaka lay close to the path of the storm and its Kansai Airport, which is situated on reclaimed land offshore and suffered extensive damage in a storm earlier in September, closed two runways.

Officials piled up sandbags to avoid a repeat of flooding seen during the previous storm.

Speaking from a hotel near the airport, British businessman Richard Swart said: "It's actually quite warm outside, very windy and with very heavy rain."

"The airport is closed. There are very few people around and all the shops are shut. It's really deserted," added Mr Swart, 56, from Durham in northern England.

Even from the safety of the hotel, he said he could hear the wind "howling" outside.

The Japanese meteorological agency warned the typhoon would bring strong winds and downpours, which could trigger landslides and floods as well as lightning strikes and tornados across the nation.

Cities in the expected path of the typhoon were already taking precautions.

Some western regions are still recovering from Typhoon Jebi in early September, the most powerful typhoon to strike the country in a quarter of a century. It claimed 11 lives and shut down Kansai Airport.

Deadly record rainfall hit western Japan earlier this year and the country sweltered through one of the hottest summers on record.

Also in September, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake rocked the northern island of Hokkaido, sparking landslides and leaving more than 40 people dead.