63 hurt as twister terrorizes Saitama, Chiba

Kyodo

A tornado touched down Monday afternoon in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, injuring 63 people and wrecking more than 100 buildings before going on a 14-km rampage into neighboring Chiba, local police said.

The wind funnel swept through houses and fields around 2 p.m., knocking down utility poles, peeling off roofs and sending all manner of objects into the air.

One man’s skull was apparently fractured by an object sent flying by the tornado, the police said.

In Koshigaya, seven buildings were destroyed and another 100 severely damaged, the police said. About 4,000 households were also left without power by the twister.

At Sakuraiminami Elementary School, flying debris shattered some 50 windows, injuring two third-grade boys, the school said.

According to Principal Toshio Kudo, 59, a strong gust hit the area at around 2:20 p.m. just after a burst of thunder. Fortunately, most of the students had already left.

The twister littered the schoolyard with roof tiles and debris from nearby houses, he said.

“The mess at our school building and schoolyard was beyond our control. We are concerned about the children,” he said.

Strong winds also hurt around 20 students at a public junior high school who were playing volleyball, the police said.

Based on police data from the two prefectures, the tornado wreaked havoc along a 13.8-km stretch, touching down in Koshigaya before veering northeast toward the town of Matsubushi and heading to Noda, Chiba Prefecture.

In Matsubushi, the roofs of 10 houses were ripped off but no injuries were reported, the police said.

In Noda, however, the twister damaged 27 cars, the roofs of 68 houses and knocked out power to about 6,200 households, the police said.

The city of Kasukabe in Saitama meanwhile saw 27,000 homes deprived of electricity, even though it wasn’t in the direct path of the tornado.

The Meteorological Agency said the tornado was spawned when warm, humid air built up under a cold front that developed over Honshu. This increased the likelihood that sudden gusts, and tornadoes, would develop under cumulonimbus clouds.

Regional observatories in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, and Choshi, in Chiba Prefecture, issued a tornado warning at 2:11 p.m.