Typhoon lashes Japan, mudslides kill two people

NUCLEAR POWER PLANT::Workers pumped away rainwater pooling around storage tanks containing radioactive water and released it into the ocean


Tue, Sep 17, 2013 - Page 1

A powerful typhoon yesterday lashed Japan with torrential rain, leaving two dead as it damaged homes and flooded parts of Kyoto, where 260,000 people were ordered to evacuate to shelters.

Typhoon Man-yi, packing wind speeds of 162kph last night, was centered off the northern coast and heading to the northern main island of Hokkaido, dumping more heavy rain.

Trains in Tokyo and its vicinity were largely suspended and hundreds of flights were grounded. At Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, a janitor was hit by a fallen tree and seriously injured. Most transportation resumed in the area by yesterday evening.

Dozens of people were injured. Police and disaster management officials said the body of a 72-year-old woman was dug out of the debris of her home, which was smashed by a mudslide the night before in Shiga Prefecture, east of Kyoto. A 77-year-old woman was found dead in a mudslide in Fukui Prefecture.

The Meteorological Agency said the storm dumped an “unprecedented” amount of rainfall in Kyoto and two neighboring prefectures it passed overnight, dumping as much as 8cm per hour. It lifted a “special warning” for the area yesterday, but urged residents to stay alert.

In Kyoto, where the city’s major Katsura River flooded, about 260,000 people in the prefectural capital alone were told to evacuate. Hundreds of thousands of others were also ordered to evacuate across Japan.

Tourists in Kyoto were taken to safety on boats towed by rescue workers on a flooded riverside street near the normally scenic Arashiyama area.

Water gushed into a nearby hotel, flooding the lobby and the kitchen, where it knocked down a big refrigerator.

In the nearby town of Fukuchiyama, an aerial view showed a vast area of muddy water swallowing the town, with houses, fields or other structures half-submerged. The town’s entire population of more than 81,000 was ordered to evacuate.

The government set up an emergency task force to assess damage and support rescue efforts, Prime Minister’s Office official Hikariko Ono said.

Kyoto and Shiga prefecture asked the Japanese Defense Ministry to mobilize relief teams.

More than 100 people were injured across the country by last night, NHK said, citing its own tally.

As a preventive step, workers at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant pumped away rainwater that was pooling around hundreds of storage tanks containing radioactive water. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said the rainwater was being released to the ocean and was believed to be untainted. TEPCO said it was pumping away the water to reduce the risk of flooding and potential tank leaks mixing with rainwater, then seeping into the soil or flowing into the sea.

However, the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said the pumping and release of the rainwater into the ocean was possibly “an event” subject to reporting under nuclear safety rules.