Japanese islands lashed by Typhoon Neoguri

Japanese islands lashed by Typhoon Neoguri
Typhoon Neoguri. Pic: @NASA

A powerful typhoon has buffeted the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa, paralysing transport and injuring at least 10 people.

The Okinawan government said one of the injured was seriously hurt. A man has also been reported missing from a fishing boat in rough seas off Kyushu island, to the north.

One of the strongest and biggest typhoons to hit during Japan’s summer months, Typhoon Neoguri was packing sustained winds of 194 kilometres (120 miles) per hour and gusts up to 240kph (148mph), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

“Please refrain from non-essential activities and from approaching hazardous areas,” said agency official Satoshi Ebihara. “Please show extreme caution.”

Local airports were closed and about 593,000 people were advised to evacuate their homes, though most remained, taking refuge from the destructive winds, waves up to 14 metres (46 feet) high and storm surges that were set to intensify as the typhoon passed the main island of Okinawa.

Television footage showed a building shattered, damaged storefronts and trees toppled as winds picked up in the Okinawan capital of Naha.

Since typhoons track along Japan’s coasts, often veering onshore every summer, the country is relatively well prepared. Much greater damage is likely from torrential rains if the typhoon hits land as expected on Thursday or Friday and moves across the Japanese archipelago.

The storm was moving slowly and diminishing in intensity, but its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage, weather forecasters said.

Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

Forecasts show the storm tracking toward Kyushu and then across Japan’s main island of Honshu. It is forecast to lose more of its power over land, but much of the damage from such storms comes from downpours that cause landslides and flooding.

Such risks are elevated by the storm’s timing, on the tail end of Japan’s summer rainy season.

More than half of the 50,000 US troops in Japan are based in Okinawa, the location of several bases. An advisory on its website said the storm was at a level for which all outdoor activity was prohibited.

The Philippines, which suffered the strongest typhoon to ever hit land when Haiyan struck in November, was spared the ferocious winds of Neoguri.

The storm did not make landfall and remained about 480 kilometres (300 miles) east of the country’s northernmost province of Batanes when it roared past on Sunday.

The typhoon did intensify the Philippines’ south west monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western provinces.

Neoguri is a Korean word meaning “raccoon dog”, a knee-high animal that looks like a cross between a dog and a raccoon but is a separate species common in East Asia.

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