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Japan braces for new typhoon

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A woman walks against the strong winds after Typhoon Trami hit the city of Kagoshima on Kyushu island on Sunday. Behrouz MEHRI/AFP

Japan braces for new typhoon

A POWERFUL typhoon hurtled towards Japan’s mainland Sunday after injuring dozens on southern islands, as weather officials warned that fierce winds and torrential rain could trigger landslides and floods.

Typhoon Trami has already disrupted travel in the world’s third-biggest economy, with bullet train services in the west of Japan suspended, more than 1,000 flights cancelled due to the closure of a key airport and Tokyo’s evening train services scrapped.

The storm is forecast to smash into the mainland near the city of Osaka shortly after 6pm (4pm in Cambodia) and churn across the Japanese archipelago, likely hitting areas still recovering from extreme weather that has battered Japan in recent months.

Trami tore through the southern island of Okinawa on Saturday, bringing winds strong enough to flip over cars. Several houses were flooded or damaged and 46 people on the island sustained minor injuries but no one was feared dead, local officials said.

Nationwide, authorities have issued non-compulsory evacuation advisories to 1.5 million residents, according to public broadcaster NHK. Nearly 500,000 households in Kyushu and Okinawa have lost power, local utilities said.

As the typhoon barrelled east, rail authorities took the highly unusual step of cancelling evening train services in Tokyo, one of the world’s busiest networks, urging passengers to shelter indoors when the storm hits.

The typhoon is not expected to hit the capital head-on but strong winds and heavy rain are still feared from later Sunday. Some businesses were already putting up shutters and hunkering down.

Trami is the latest in a string of extreme natural events in Japan, which has suffered typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and heatwaves in recent months, claiming scores of lives and causing extensive damage.

Packing maximum gusts of 216 kph, Trami was expected to travel over most of the archipelago, weakening slightly but causing extreme weather into Monday, forecasters said.

Still classed as a “very strong” typhoon, Trami pounded Kagoshima on the western tip of Japan early Sunday, causing 10 minor injuries – such as cuts from broken windows and people knocked over by gusts.

“We are strongly urging our residents to stay indoors because it is extremely dangerous to be outside now,” Masaaki Tamaki, an official of Kagoshima’s disaster management section, told AFP.

The Japanese meteorological agency warned the typhoon would bring strong winds and downpours, which could trigger landslides and floods as well as lightning strikes and tornados across the nation.

Violent gusts swept away roof tiles on some houses in the western city of Kochi. “There was a big ‘bang, bang’. That woke me up,” an elderly man in Kochi told national broadcaster NHK.

‘Still recovering’

Cities in the expected path of the typhoon were already taking precautions.

East Japan Railway announced that it would gradually suspend train services in and around Tokyo and end all trains around 8pm, shortly before the typhoon was to draw near the Japanese capital.

“Shinkansen” bullet train services, particularly those in western areas, also reduced or cancelled their services.

Osaka’s Kansai Airport, which is situated on reclaimed land offshore and suffered extensive damage in a storm earlier in September, closed two runways. Officials piled up sandbags to avoid a repeat of flooding seen during the previous storm.

Some western regions are still recovering from the most powerful typhoon to strike the country in a quarter of a century in early September. Typhoon Jebi claimed 11 lives and shut down Kansai, the main regional airport.

Deadly record rainfall hit western Japan earlier this year and the country sweltered through one of the hottest summers on record.

Also in September a magnitude 6.6 earthquake rocked the northern island of Hokkaido, sparking landslides and leaving more than 40 people dead.

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