1 killed, 40 injured as tornado hits Ibaraki, Tochigi


A teenage boy died, around 40 people were injured and up to 500 houses were damaged Sunday after apparent tornadoes hit Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, north of Tokyo, prompting Ibaraki Gov. Masaru Hashimoto to ask the Self-Defense Forces to be deployed for disaster relief.

Thunderstorms also caused lightning damage and temporarily disrupted bullet train services on the Tohoku, Yamagata and Akita shinkansen lines, according to local police, firefighters and East Japan Railway Co.

The apparent twister in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, which occurred at around 1 p.m., shattered windows and blew away the roofs of 150 to 200 homes leaving two people seriously wounded, one of whom, 14-year-old Keisuke Suzuki, died after being taken to hospital. The city is located around 50 km northeast of Tokyo.

In the city of Moka and the towns of Mashiko and Motegi in Tochigi, around 300 houses were damaged and nine people were injured. In Fukushima Prefecture, about 20 plastic greenhouses were blown away and four houses were damaged by a gust.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said local observatories had warned the Tokai, Kanto and Tohoku regions of central, eastern and northeastern Japan to brace for possible tornadoes intermittently from Sunday morning as atmospheric conditions were unstable.

According to the Mito observatory in Ibaraki, a thunderstorm advisory was issued early Sunday for the whole prefecture. Hailstones fell in Mito, the prefectural capital, at around 1:20 p.m.

Following the gusts, which the Mito observatory attributed to either a tornado or downburst, and the thunderstorms, around 20,000 households in Tochigi, Ibaraki and Saitama prefectures suffered power outages, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

In Okegawa, Saitama Prefecture, Junko Sekine, 40, and her 11-year-old daughter Sayaka fell unconscious after being struck by lightning around 2:20 p.m., but the mother later recovered consciousness, police said.

In Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, Yoshihito Yaguramaki, a 64-year-old farmer, was found collapsed in a field around 11:15 a.m. and pronounced dead an hour later. Police suspect he was hit by lightning.