Powerful Typhoon Vongfong churns towards Japan

Naha airport was closed with land transport also disrupted

Tokyo: Powerful Typhoon Vongfong churned towards Japan on Saturday, injuring at least 20 people as it pounded the southern Okinawan islands with ferocious winds and driving rain.

The monster storm was estimated to be about 110 kilometres (68 miles) southeast of Naha City in Japan's southernmost area of Okinawa at 0800 GMT, according to the nation's meteorological agency.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center has downgraded the storm from a super typhoon, but Japanese officials said it remained "large and very strong" and warned of high waves, torrential rain and landslides. Packing gusts of up to 234 kilometres (145 miles) per hour, the typhoon was moving north slowly, at 15 kilometres (nine miles) per hour.

Naha airport was closed with land transport also disrupted. Vongfong is expected to approach Japan's southern main island of Kyushu by early Monday after brushing off Okinawa, and could make landfall, the meteorological agency said.

Okinawa has already been experiencing gusts and heavy rain, which caused a blackout in 33,000 households.

More than 10,000 residents mostly in coastal areas were advised to evacuate with the weather agency warning the prefecture could be hit by hourly rainfall of up to 80 millimetres (three inches) by early Monday.

At least 20 people have been injured, including a nine-year-old girl and a man in his 20s who lost fingers after they were caught in doors slammed shut by strong winds in two cities, municipal officials said.

Satellite images of Vongfong have shown a perfectly formed eye in the middle of a gigantic swirling disc of cloud. The typhoon came just a week after another strong tropical storm whipped through the country, leaving 11 people dead or missing in a nation prone to natural disasters.

Earthquakes shook northern Japan on Saturday, two weeks after a volcano in the central part of the archipelago erupted without warning, killing at least 56 hikers. In late August a downpour in western Japan's Hiroshima triggered massive landslides and killed more than 70 people.

( Source : AFP )
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