Weakened Typhoon Neoguri still packs torrential punch as it hits Japan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 11:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 8:22am

A man died, more than 500,000 people were urged to evacuate and hundreds of flights were cancelled as a strong typhoon brought torrential rain and high winds to Japan's southwestern islands. It could bring heavy rain to Tokyo later this week.

Typhoon Neoguri weakened from its status as a super typhoon but remained intense, with gusts of more than 250km/h. It was powering through the Okinawa island chain, where emergency rain and high-seas warnings were in effect.

Watch: Japan issues highest alert over typhoon Neoguri

The storm was at its most powerful when passing Okinawa, some 1,600km southwest of Tokyo, yesterday, but the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned of heavy rains and potential flooding in Kyushu, the westernmost of Japan's main islands, as well as heavy rain in the rest of the nation as the storm turns east later in the week.

"People must take the utmost caution," Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of disaster management, said.

One man died after high waves swamped his boat, NHK television said. Several people suffered minor injuries from falls.

More than 50,000 households in Okinawa lost power and an oil refinery halted operations. Television footage showed a collapsed roof of a shopping arcade, street lights rocking in high winds and branches being blown down largely deserted streets.

Separately, Okinawa police said at least four people were injured, including an 83-year-old woman, with NHK putting the number of injured at 19.

Schools across the sprawling archipelago were also closed, while nearly 70,000 Okinawan households had no power, the public broadcaster said.

"We have no water or electricity, but the gas is still on," said Takuro Ogawa, who lives in Chatan, a town in central Okinawa.

Watch: Flights cancelled and evacuations underway as super typhoon Neoguri hits Japan

Neoguri comes less than a year after Typhoon Haiyan, packing the strongest winds ever recorded on land, killed more than 7,300 people as it tore across the central Philippines in November.

Japan, a wealthy nation with strict building codes, has a strong track record of coming through major storms comparatively unscathed in the last few decades compared to its poorer neighbours such as the Philippines.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse