September 6, 2005

Typhoon Hits Southern Japan, Thousands Flee Homes

TOKYO -- A powerful typhoon pummeled southwestern Japan with torrential rain and high winds on Tuesday, causing floods and landslides, paralysing transport and prompting officials to tell more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.

One man was killed, 17 people were missing and 45 others injured, public broadcaster NHK reported.

A 75-year-old man died when his house was crushed by a landslide in Miyazaki on the southwestern main island of Kyushu, NHK said.

At about 2 p.m. (0500 GMT), the eye of the storm made landfall at Isahaya near Nagasaki on the mountainous island of Kyushu, Japan's third-biggest main island and home to about 10 percent of the country's almost 130 million population.

A total of about 110,000 residents of Kyushu and the neighbouring main island of Shikoku were told to evacuate, Kyodo news agency said, while more than 16,000 left their homes voluntarily.

Winds had weakened slightly but were gusting up to 126 km an hour (78 mph) at the storm's center, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Military personnel were sent to help evacuate residents of the town of Takaoka-cho in Kyushu after the governor of Miyazaki prefecture requested assistance, said Japan's top government spokesman, Hiroyuki Hosoda.

"There is expected to be further damage due to the typhoon so all agencies and ministries are joining together to respond," Hosoda told reporters.

The typhoon, named Nabi, meaning "butterfly" in Korean, was moving north at 30 km an hour (19 mph) but was forecast to swing east and beat a path up the Japan Sea coast, bringing rain and strong winds to western Japan and parts of South Korea before hitting the northernmost main Japanese island of Hokkaido. It was not expected to hit China.

Airlines in South Korea canceled dozens of domestic and international flights on Tuesday because of the weather and ships were warned to stay in port.

Television showed roads deep under water in the Kyushu city of Kagoshima and waves engulfing coastal roads on the island, which has a mixture of heavy industry and agriculture.

More than 1,300 mm (51 inches) of rain had fallen in some parts of Kyushu in 24 hours, public broadcaster NHK said.

The slow pace at which the typhoon is moving means further heavy rains are expected before it moves on.


Hundreds of flights and ferries in and out of Kyushu and Shikoku were canceled because of high winds. All West Japan Railway Co. train services in Kyushu and Shikoku were halted, railway officials said.

About 270,000 households were without electricity at 2 p.m., according to Kyushu Electric Power.

Car makers Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. suspended work at assembly plants in southwestern Japan as a safety precaution.

Honda Motor Co. had also halted production on Monday night at a factory in Kyushu that makes motorcycles, power products and engines, and said it would cancel the day's work on Tuesday.

The car makers said they saw no long-term impact from the suspension since lost production could be made up through overtime or other means.

Oil refiner Kyushu Oil Co. said the storm was affecting production at some secondary units in Oita. It halted oil shipments in the area.

In South Korea, one unidentified man, believed to be in his 60s, has been missing since he was swept away in a rising river in the southern city of Ulsan on Tuesday, a National Emergency Management Agency official said.

Yonhap News reported that a couple of landslides disrupted traffic in southeastern South Korea.

Web site Tropical Storm Risk classified Nabi as a Category 3 storm but forecast it would weaken to a Category 1 over the next 24 hours.

Nabi follows the region's previous typhoon, Talim, which killed 97 in eastern China over the past few days, with 30 people still missing, the China Daily reported on Tuesday.

The typhoon and resulting floods and landslides had forced more than 1.7 million Chinese from their homes and caused a record 12.5 billion yuan in direct losses in eastern provinces, the state-run newspaper said.