Typhoon Wipha whips through Tokyo area

Kyodo, JIJI

Typhoon Wipha brought strong winds and heavy rain to the Tokyo metropolitan area early Wednesday, shutting down large portions of the region’s transportation network.

On Izu Oshima Island in the Pacific about 120 km south of Tokyo, at least 13 bodies were found and around 20 people were missing after several houses collapsed amid record rainfall of 122.5 mm per hour, according to local authorities and police.

In Machida, Tokyo, a woman believed to be in her 40s died after being swept away by a swollen river, police said.

Several bullet-train runs on the Tohoku, Yamagata, Joetsu, Nagano and Tokaido shinkansen lines were canceled or temporarily suspended.

Air travel was heavily disrupted. Japan Airlines grounded 189 domestic flights while All Nippon Airways scrapped 211 domestic and international flights.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it took steps to deal with water inside barriers around tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Tepco has set tentative limits on radioactive materials in water around the tanks and will release water inside their barriers if radiation levels are below those ceilings. The ceilings are 25 becquerels per liter for cesium-137, 15 becquerels for cesium-134 and 10 becquerels for strontium-90.

All of the ceilings are one-third of the legal thresholds for the release of water into the sea.

At the tank areas where high radioactivity levels were detected, water near the tanks will be transferred to a newly build 4,000-ton makeshift tank.

As the season’s 26th typhoon neared the Kanto region, the Meteorological Agency called for vigilance over strong winds, high waves and flooding in a wide range of areas in the storm’s path.

The government set up a liaison office at the prime minister’s office to gather typhoon-related information.

As of 8 a.m., Wipha was moving northeast at around 65 kph some 40 km east-southeast of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture. It had an atmospheric pressure at its center of 955 hectopascals and was packing winds of up to 180 kph near its center.

The storm was expected to be downgraded to an extra-tropical cyclone in the afternoon as it moved over the Pacific Ocean east of the Tohoku region.