Typhoon Songda churned northeast along Pacific coasts in southern Japan yesterday, bringing with it heavy rains and staying on course to hit Tokyo as it weakened, weather officials said.
It was expected to be downgraded to a depression late yesterday, but could still dump torrential rain on the northeast coast, which was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
A total of 57 people suffered storm-related injuries on the southern Ryukyu Islands, police said. Of those, five were seriously hurt.
The typhoon, packing winds of up to 160 kph, was located about 100km off the southwestern tip of Shikoku island at noon, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Agency official Takeo Tanaka said the storm, losing strength, could reach Tokyo at around 9am today.
It was not clear whether it would directly hit the disaster-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, more than 200km northeast of the capital.
However, the typhoon has already brought heavy rain to the Fukushima region, prompting fears that run-off water may wash away radioactive materials from land into the Pacific Ocean.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has been pouring synthetic resins over the complex to prevent radioactive deposits from being swept away by winds or rain.
Meanwhile, emergency workers at the crippled Fukushima plant yesterday restored the cooling system of a reactor, which had come to a halt after escaping major damage from earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
The water pump to cool the reactor and the pool for spent nuclear fuel at the facility’s No. 5 unit was found to be at a standstill late on Saturday, TEPCO said.
The work began at 8am yesterday to replace the pump and it was completed in four-and-a-half hours.
“There was a motor problem in the pump and we replaced it with a backup pump which is operating now,” TEPCO official Ryoko Sakai said.
The temperature of water in the reactor, which was 68°C when the trouble was found, reached 93.7°C before the backup pump was activated, the official said.
Of the plant’s six reactors, the No.1, No. 2 and No. 3 units are presumed to have suffered a meltdown, TEPCO has said.
The No. 5 and No. 6 reactors were in a cold shutdown for regular checkups at the time of the disaster. They have remained stable as an emergency power generator continued supplying electricity to them.