Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Downgraded Meari drenches Japan, kills at least one

AP AND REUTERS , TOKYO

A powerful tropical storm soaked Japan's southern main islands of Kyushu and Shikoku yesterday, disrupting transportation and whipping up waves and winds that damaged homes, downed electricity lines and forced thousands to evacuate to shelters. At least one person was killed, 22 people were injured and six were missing.

The storm, which had been downgraded from typhoon status, had sustained winds of up to 108kph as it swirled over the southern main island of Shikoku yesterday afternoon, the Meteorological Agency said.

It was slowly headed northeast toward the main island of Honshu.

As much as 300mm of rain was expected in southern Japan through early today, said the agency, which also warned of high tides, strong winds, flooding and landslides.

Public broadcaster NHK said 22 people had been injured, including a 46-year-old man whose finger was sliced off when it was caught in a warehouse door slammed shut by a gust in Kawanabe, a town about 990km southwest of Tokyo, Kagoshima prefectural police spokesman Kenji Iwashige said.

Authorities confirmed eight other injuries in Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Saga prefectures -- including a man and woman in their 70s who were blown to the ground by strong winds -- but had no details on the other 13 reported by NHK.

In western Mie prefecture, six people were missing after mud and rock loosened by rain buried several homes, the public broadcaster said. The body of an unidentified man was recovered from a river in Mie, police said.

Rain and high tides flooded dozens of homes in southern Japan and troops were dispatched to help with repairs and rescue efforts, officials said.

Hundreds of flights were canceled and bullet train and local train and ferry services around the southern islands were suspended, stranding thousands of travelers, media reported.

Roughly 79,300 homes across Kyushu were without power, Kyushu Electric Power Co spokesman Yoshihiko Imaizumi said. Blackouts in 7,400 homes were reported in Mie prefecture, Chubu Electric Power Co spokesman Hiroko Mizutani said.

Nearly 2,300 people across Kyushu fled their homes for public shelters and authorities in Mie ordered about 18,000 households to evacuate, officials said. Public schools across a wide swathe of southern Japan were closed.

At least 45 people have been killed by seven typhoons -- a record number -- that have hit Japan this year.

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