Powerful Typhoon Trami batters Okinawa, threatens rest of Japan

Storm packs winds of up to 216km/h and is expected to hit the country on Sunday morning, but injuries already reported

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 10:52pm

A powerful typhoon pummelled Japan’s southern island of Okinawa on Saturday, injuring at least 17 people, as weather officials warned the storm would rip through the country over the weekend.

Typhoon Trami, packing maximum gusts of 216km/h (134mph) near its centre, was forecast to hit the mainland early on Sunday and cause extreme weather across the country into Monday.

Television footage showed branches ripped from trees by strong winds blocking a main street in Naha, with massive waves splashing on breakwaters on a remote island in the region and torrential horizontal rain.

Local policemen in rain jackets armed with chainsaws were battling the furious wind to remove fallen trees.

Some 600 people fled to shelters in Okinawa and electricity was cut to nearly 200,000 homes, public broadcaster NHK said.

At least 386 flights were cancelled mainly in western Japan, according to NHK.

Okinawa officials said at least 17 people have been injured in storm-related incidents.

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“The number may rise further as we are in the middle of sorting out figures,” said Masatsune Miyazato from the island’s disaster management office. “People in Okinawa are used to typhoons but we are strongly urging them to stay vigilant.”

The weather agency warned people across Japan to be on alert for strong winds, high waves and heavy rain.

“The typhoon is feared to bring record rainfalls and violent winds over large areas,” agency official Yasushi Kajiwara told reporters. “Please stay on alert, evacuate early and ensure your safety.”

After raking the outlying islands, the typhoon is forecast to pick up speed and approach western Japan on Sunday, “with a very strong force”, as it barrels over the mainland, he said.

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There have already been heavy downpours in large parts of western and eastern Japan, including the capital, as the storm spurred a seasonal rain front.

Fishermen in Kagoshima bay, where the typhoon is expected to make landfall, were already making preparations, tying down their boats as Trami approached – even as forecasters warned that another typhoon was following in Trami’s course.

Angler Masakazu Hirase said: “It’s dreadful because we already know there’s another typhoon after this one but you cannot compete with nature. We do what we can to limit the damage.”

If the forecast holds, it will be the latest in a series of extreme natural events to strike Japan.

Western parts of the country are still recovering from the most powerful typhoon in a quarter of a century in early September. Typhoon Jebi claimed 11 lives and shut down Kansai Airport, the main regional airport.

Officials at Kansai were already making preparations, placing sandbags and warning they may be forced to close the airport.

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