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Japan

Typhoon Jebi: death toll rises as speed boats evacuate thousands stranded at Japan’s Kansai airport

At least 11 people dead and more than 200 injured as authorities begin to clean up in aftermath of most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 8:58am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2018, 7:17pm

One of Japan’s busiest airports will remain closed for around a week, airport officials say, a day after the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in at least 25 years flooded a runway, toppled huge cranes, flipped cars on their side, damaged historic shrines and caused at least 11 deaths as it swept across part of Japan’s main island.

About 3,000 people stranded at Kansai International Airport were being transported out via a high-speed boat as authorities sought to clean up the devastation left behind by Typhoon Jebi.

Typhoon Jebi leaves a trail of death and destruction in Japan

Dozens of Hongkongers were among those left stranded after extreme weather unleashed by the storm shut down the airport – Japan’s third busiest – and caused a ship to smash into a bridge.

The typhoon left more than 470 people injured.

At least 70 Hongkongers in several tour groups were stuck in Osaka, the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong said.

The dead included a man in his 70s, who died apparently after being blown to the ground from his flat in Osaka prefecture. Police said five others died elsewhere in the prefecture after being hit by flying objects or falling from their flats. In nearby Shiga prefecture, a 71-year-old man died when a storage building collapsed on him, and a man in his 70s died after falling from a roof in Mie, officials said.

A high-speed boat that links Kansai airport to nearby Kobe airport with regular services began transporting stranded passengers and others there on Wednesday morning on special runs. The boat can carry 110 people at a time.

A group of about 160 elementary school pupils have been stranded since Tuesday in a facility where they were staying on a school trip in Kyoto after trees knocked down by a strong typhoon blocked roads surrounding it, local officials said.

Of the pupils, two – a girl and a boy – have fallen ill and were taken to a hospital by helicopter on Wednesday morning, according to officials from the Kyoto city board of education.

The Kansai airport operator said those stranded at the airport may also be transported by bus to the mainland using lanes not affected by the ship’s collision with the bridge.

Due to the typhoon on Tuesday, the airport’s runway and the basement floor of a terminal building were flooded, and all of its runways were closed.

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Nearly 800 flights were cancelled, including several international flights departing and arriving at Nagoya and Osaka, along with ferries, local train services and some bullet train lines.

Twenty-nine flights between Hong Kong and Osaka on Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Express and Hong Kong Airlines were cancelled on Wednesday. Three more Cathay Pacific flights between the two cities scheduled for Thursday were also cancelled.

Evacuation advisories were issued for more than 1.22 million people as of Wednesday morning, while another 29,600 people under stronger, though still not mandatory, evacuation orders, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said.

Some 16,000 people spent the night in shelters across 20 prefectures.

About 1.04 million buildings remained without power in Kansai Electric Power Co.’s service area as of 7am. As many as 2.1 million buildings lost power at the height of the storm. The utility dispatched 8,000 workers overnight to bring power back to households and businesses. President Shigeki Iwane is scheduled to speak before the press later in the morning.

Utilities covering Chubu and Shikoku regions said more than 169,000 homes and offices are still without power on Wednesday morning.

Jebi had a similar trajectory to Typhoon Cimaron which made landfall on August 23, disrupting transport but causing limited damage and few injuries.

Jebi became the first typhoon categorised as “very strong” by the weather agency to make landfall on Japan’s main islands since 1993 when a powerful typhoon left 48 people dead or missing.

The country is regularly struck by major storms during the summer and autumn.

Kyodo, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg and Associated Press with additional reporting by Peace Chiu