Powerful winds and lashing rain from an approaching typhoon have killed at least one person and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people in southern Japan.
The slow-moving Typhoon Khanun, which was nearing Japan’s southwestern islands on Wednesday, also forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights to the popular tourist destination of Okinawa and other islands, stranding thousands of tourists.
Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said a 90-year-old man died after getting crushed under a collapsed garage, while media reports said at least 11 others were wounded.
The storm, described as “very strong” by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), brought maximum sustained winds of 200kmph (124mph), while some areas on Okinawa logged more than 250mm (9.84 inches) of rain in the past 24 hours.
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The JMA warned of flooding and landslides in some parts, and authorities issued an evacuation order across Okinawa and in parts of neighbouring Kagoshima prefecture, urging more than 690,000 residents to move to safety.
Television footage showed strong winds flipping cars over in parking lots as rain battered empty streets in Okinawa.
Local utility Okinawa Electric Power said about 210,000 households, or 34 percent of all houses covered, were experiencing power outages as of 1pm Japan time (04:00 GMT), according to its website.
Kyushu Electric Power said the power supply was down for 10,030 houses in Amami islands in Kagoshima.
Mobile operators SoftBank Corp and KDDI said phone and internet connections in some areas in Okinawa were disrupted due to the power outage.
In Okinawa’s capital city Naha, the airport was entirely closed for a second day on Wednesday. A total of 951 flights were cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday, while 35 ferry lines suspended operations, Japan’s transport ministry said.
Japan Airlines said it may ground more flights to and from airports in Okinawa on Thursday and Friday as well.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) also indicated a chance of additional cancellations.
Major courier companies Yamato Holdings and SG Holdings’ Sagawa Express halted all parcel deliveries to Okinawa from other areas in Japan due to transport disruption.
The storm is hitting during the peak summer tourist season, which has seen the number of visitors return to pre-pandemic levels this year. Okinawa is frequently hit by typhoons, but usually later in the year.
Okinawa is host to the bulk of United States forces in Japan, and personnel on Kadena Air Base – one of the largest installations – have been urged to take all necessary precautions.
JMA predicts the typhoon will move westwards through the East China Sea towards China’s Zhejiang and Fujian provinces and north of Taiwan by Friday, but then turn northeastwards, potentially heading to Japan’s third-largest island, Kyushu.
Typhoon Khanun comes just days after the region was hit by Typhoon Doksuri, which slammed northern China in one of the worst storms in over a decade and damaged rice production in the Philippines.