EXTREME WEATHER

Hundreds of flights grounded, airport control tower abandoned, as typhoon Mindulle bears down on Tokyo

Japan’s weather agency warned of mudslides and floods as well as lightning and gusty winds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 11:25am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 10:47pm

Heavy rain drenched the Japanese capital on Monday as Typhoon Mindulle forced air traffic controllers to temporarily abandon the control tower at Narita International Airport and cancel hundreds of flights.

Narita was closed at 2:20 p.m. after the controllers left the tower when wind speeds reached 126 kilometres per hour, said a Transport Ministry official at the airport who would give only his surname, Matsumoto. The airport reopened around an hour later.

It was the first time the tower had been closed because of a typhoon. It closed once before, during the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that triggered a massive tsunami in March 2011.

Typhoon Mindulle, which made landfall south of Tokyo early Monday afternoon, brought heavy rain and strong winds to Tokyo and surrounding areas.

Narita, which is located outside of Tokyo, said that 85 international and about 30 domestic flights had been cancelled. More than 400 domestic flights were cancelled at the city’s other major airport, Haneda.

Japanese television showed scattered damage around the region. One house had lost much of its roof, and some second-story wall tiles had fallen off another. A train on a small commuter line in western Tokyo had to be abandoned after the earth under the tracks gave way, leaving the tracks, train and overhead lines tilted, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. No one was injured.

Heavy rains have swollen rivers, and authorities are warning of the possibility of flooding and landslides.

“In Tokyo... please exercise caution for landslides, flooding in low lying areas, surging rivers, violent wind and high waves,” the weather agency said.

Mindulle, which is Korean for a type of dandelion, is forecast to travel along Japan northeast seaboard after passing over Tokyo, bringing wind and heavy rain to the north of the country.

Most major commuter train services in Tokyo and its surrounding region operated normally, including bullet trains.

Some lines, however, suffered temporary delays and stoppages.

Separately, Typhoon Lionrock, the season’s 10th, was stuck in the Pacific south of western Japan, while a third typhoon Kompasu, the season’s 11th, was downgraded to a subtropical depression

Heavy rain since Saturday caused high waves and rivers to flood on the island, where rescue workers found a male body Monday morning.

Police did not immediately link the death to the storm, but local media said it might be the owner of a vehicle stranded by heavy rain.

The local Hokkaido government has said the storm has caused only three minor injuries so far.

Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters, Kyodo