The strongest typhoon to hit Okinawa in several years lashed the southern Japanese island and surrounding areas yesterday, injuring four people and cutting off power to about 30,000 households.
Residents were told to stay indoors and warned that the storm’s powerful winds could overturn cars and cause waves of up to 12m.
The center of slow-moving Typhoon Bolaven was expected to pass over the island last night, dumping as much as 500mm of rain over a 24-hour period, weather officials said.
About 27,000 households on the island of Amami, north of Okinawa, were without electricity and 3,100 households on Okinawa also lost power. Video footage from Naha, the prefectural capital, showed trees thrashed by the high winds, some with broken branches, and largely empty streets.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said wind speeds near the center of the typhoon were about 180kph, with extremely strong gusts reaching 252kph. Those winds could knock over telephone poles and overturn cars, while waves around the island could top 12m, public broadcaster NHK warned.
Okinawa disaster authorities said four people were injured.
All domestic and international flights in and out of Naha Airport were canceled.
The typhoon, the 15th of the season, was expected to continue into the East China Sea without losing much power and then into the Yellow Sea, possibly affecting southern coastal areas of South Korea by tomorrow, Japanese weather officials said.
Gusts from the typhoon could equal or surpass the previous record for Naha of 265kph in a 1956 typhoon, said Tsukasa Uezu, an official with the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory Weather Information Center.
The storm’s relatively slow movement — 15 kph to the northwest — means “exposure to wind and rain will be that much longer” and raises the possibility of serious damage, said Shun Miyagi, an official with the Okinawa Disaster Prevention and Crisis Management Center.
More than half of the 50,000 US troops based in Japan are stationed in Okinawa.
At Kadena Air Base, one of the biggest bases on the island, all shops and service facilities were ordered closed and movement around the base was to be kept to a minimum.
All entry into the ocean was prohibited.