Three reported dead and around 200 hurt as Typhoon Trami hammers Japan

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

Three people were killed and about 200 were injured by powerful Typhoon Trami, which battered Japan over the weekend, officials said Monday, as the storm’s aftermath brought travel chaos to morning commuters in the capital.

A 50-year-old truck driver was killed during the storm by a landslide in Tottori Prefecture, while a man found in a river was later confirmed dead in Yamanashi Prefecture. In Fukuchiyama, Kyoto Prefecture, a 79-year-old man was found dead near a riverbank after going to check on his boat.

A woman in her 60s meanwhile remains missing in Miyazaki Prefecture after being washed away in an irrigation ditch, according to local authorities.

Trami — which means a kind of rose tree in Vietnamese — was the season’s 24th typhoon and brought fierce winds and torrential rain to many areas that had already been battered by a string of recent extreme weather episodes. Its strength forced public transportation operators to shut down services early Sunday in central, eastern and western Japan.

The resumption of services in the capital area was delayed Monday morning for safety checks, and in some cases trees and other objects were found to have fallen onto tracks. Huge crowds built up at Tokyo train stations, with people battling for spots in jam-packed commuter trains. Shinjuku Station, one of the busiest railway stations in the country, had to restrict the entry of users to some areas because of the crowds.

A 60-year-old worker from Sumida Ward, Tokyo, expressed his disappointment. “I was optimistic that trains would be operating normally in the morning. Usually, I’m supposed to be in my office by this time.”

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) halted some train runs on the Chuo Line, which links central Tokyo and suburban cities, after strong winds knocked down a tree near the tracks at Yotsuya Station.

A train on the private Keio Line, meanwhile,  collided with a wall that had collapsed onto the rails in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward at around 4:45 a.m. None of the 70 passengers aboard were injured, and its operator, Keio Corp., resumed services about four hours later.

Rail authorities had on Sunday taken the highly unusual step of canceling evening train services in Tokyo — one of the world’s busiest networks — urging people to stay indoors when the storm hit.

JR East stopped all train services in and around Tokyo at 8 p.m. Sunday, a few hours before the typhoon neared the capital. The company said it was the first time it had ever stopped services early in Tokyo and surrounding areas after informing the public of its plans beforehand.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways planned to cancel over 180 flights Monday as massive cancellations the previous day made it difficult for them to arrange aircraft.

Some 450,000 households in Tokyo and its vicinity had been hit by power outages as of early Monday. Hachioji, in western Tokyo, recorded winds of up to 164 kph, a record for the city, in the early hours of Monday. Around 860,000 households in the Tokai area and 57,000 households in northeastern Japan and Niigata Prefecture were left without power as well.

At a condominium construction site in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, the arm of a crane used to hoist construction materials broke, apparently because of the strong winds. Residents living nearby evacuated but no one was injured, according to police and other sources.

The typhoon rumbled through the archipelago early Monday and weakened to an extratropical depression at around noon over the Pacific Ocean east of Hokkaido, after making landfall in Wakayama Prefecture on Sunday evening.

Yuji Ueno, an official in the town of Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture, near to where Trami made landfall, said Sunday the winds were “enormous” and made it impossible to venture outside. “We saw incredible winds and rain. I stepped outside City Hall in the afternoon, and the rain was swirling in very strong wind. Enormous wind.”

“It was difficult to stay standing. It was very scary,” he added.

At its height, Trami packed gusts of up to 216 kph, although it weakened as it moved over land. Weather officials warned of potential flooding and landslides, and non-compulsory evacuation advisories were issued leading about 36,000 people nationwide to take shelter as of Sunday evening.

The typhoon did not hit the capital head-on, but Tokyo still saw fearsome winds and lashing rain later Sunday and early Monday, and the streets were deserted. At the world-famous scramble crossing in Shibuya, where thousands normally cross every few minutes when the lights change, just a few souls braved horizontal rain and powerful gusts.