Strongest typhoon in decade pounds Japan

At least 15 people were killed and 20 others were missing on Wednesday as Japan’s biggest typhoon for more than a decade pounded the south of the country with heavy rain and powerful winds, officials said.

Typhoon Tokage, which also injured at least 31 people, became the record 10th typhoon to land on the main Japanese islands in a year. The storms have claimed more than 100 lives.

Nearly 500 domestic flights were cancelled, affecting 44 000 passengers, and tens of thousands of homes lost electricity as the typhoon raced north-east at 50kph, with Tokyo in its sights overnight.

The downpour was heavy enough for the Central Japan Railway Company to cancel the bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka.

With an 800km radius of powerful winds, Tokage is the biggest typhoon to land in Japan since the Meteorological Agency began its classification system in 1991.

The typhoon hit land 700km south-west of Tokyo in Kochi prefecture, where a 20m high dike gave way at Muroto due to high waves, destroying several houses.

“At least three bodies were found in the area. There might be more,” a local police official said.

A 31-year-old man was found dead near a flooded river in Miyazaki prefecture after his vehicle skidded at a bridge, police said.

In south-western Ehime prefecture, a 24-year-old woman died after being buried by a landslide. Also in Ehime, two elderly men and a woman went missing after separate landslides destroyed their houses.

Other people who went missing included a 75-year-old fishermen pulled into the ocean as he inspected his boat in Kochi, a 63-year-old farmer swept away in a rice field in Miyazaki and a newspaper deliveryman who disappeared in Oita prefecture.

In Chiba prefecture just east of Tokyo, two workers building an embankment along a coastline were pulled into the Pacific by high waves, a government official said.

Packing wind speeds of 144kph, Typhoon Tokage triggered landslides and sent objects flying.

Among the injured were four people trapped in an office building that was crushed in Oita, a 68-year-old man in Saga Prefecture who fell from his roof while fixing it and an 83-year-old woman who fell and broke her thigh.

Authorities have issued evacuation warnings to 17 434 people who live mainly in southern Japan. By Wednesday afternoon, 4 250 people had voluntarily left for temporary shelters, the disaster agency said.

On the southern island of Kyushu, 45 300 households lost power, while 29 713 lost electricity in neighbouring Shikoku.

The nine previous typhoons that have hit Japan this year caused a total of 102 deaths and left 13 missing and presumed dead.

Typhoon Ma-on slammed into the Tokyo metropolitan area on October 9, killing six people and paralysing the capital’s transport systems.

Just a week before Ma-on, Typhoon Meari wreaked havoc in the Japanese islands, killing 22 and injuring 89 in floods, landslides and other accidents. — AFP

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