Kyushu next in path of unusual July typhoon

Neoguri roars across Okinawa

Reuters, Kyodo

One man died, more than 500,000 people were urged to evacuate and hundreds of flights were canceled as a strong typhoon brought torrential rain and high winds to Okinawa and could bring heavy rains to Tokyo later this week.

Typhoon Neoguri weakened from its original status as a super typhoon but remained intense, with gusts of more than 250 kph.

Emergency rain and high-seas warnings were in effect in Okinawa, where the storm was expected to be at its most powerful on Tuesday. The Meteorological Agency was also warning of heavy rains and potential flooding in Kyushu, as well as downpours in the rest of the country as the storm turns east.

“People must take the utmost caution,” Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of disaster management, told a news conference.

A man died after his boat was swamped by high waves, NHK reported. Several people suffered minor injuries from falls.

More than 50,000 households in Okinawa lost power and an oil refinery was shut down. Television footage showed streetlights rocking in high winds and branches tumbling down largely deserted streets.

There are no nuclear plants in Okinawa, but there are two in Kyushu, which is expected to get hit next. Another in Shikoku could also be affected.

In Okinawa, television footage showed sheets of rain and palm trees tossed by wind as high waves lashed breakwaters.

“This is an extraordinary situation, where a grave danger is approaching,” a Meteorological Agency official said Monday night.

At 7:45 a.m. Tuesday, Neoguri was roughly 80 km southeast of Miyako Island and moving northwest at 20 kph, with sustained winds of 180 kph.

Kadena Air Base, one of the largest U.S. military facilities on Okinawa and host to some 75 percent of U.S. forces in Japan, was on its highest level of storm alert and people were told to stay inside.

Nansei Sekiyu KK, a Japanese refiner wholly owned by Brazil’s Petrobras, said it had suspended oil refining operations at its 100,000-barrels-per-day Nishihara refinery in Okinawa on Monday evening.

Around two to four typhoons make landfall in Japan each year but they are unusual in July.

A Meteorological Agency official said the storm would gradually turn to the east, making landfall in Kyushu before raking its way up Honshu and coming close to Tokyo on Friday.

“But it will be weaker by then, so that Tokyo can mainly expect a lot of rain, and maybe some gusts of wind,” he added.

The Meteorological Agency has issued a “special warning” for the typhoon. These types of warnings are issued only when there is a “significantly high possibility of a grave natural disaster happening.” The warnings came into use in August 2013 and are issued for natural phenomena that are expected to impact the country at levels that occur “once in 10 years”.