KANAZAWA: Typhoon Halong slammed into western Japan on Sunday, leaving dozens of people injured while the coastguard searched for a man who went missing apparently while surfing when the storm hit.
Halong was over the Sea of Japan (East Sea) as of 5:00 pm (0800 GMT), some 60 kilometres (37 miles) northwest of the central city of Kanazawa, after making landfall on the largest and most populous island of Honshu. Packing winds of up to 162 kilometres per hour, the typhoon was moving north-northeast at 40 kilometres per hour and expected to move away from the Japanese archipelago, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The weather agency lifted its highest warning for torrential rain as of 5:15 pm. In southwestern Wakayama prefecture, a man who was apparently surfing on the Pacific coast went missing early Sunday, local police said. “According to a witness, a man in a wetsuit was seen drifting about 30 metres offshore and then disappeared,” said a local police spokesman.
The coastguard dispatched helicopters to the area, he said. The storm injured at least 70 people throughout the country, public broadcaster NHK said. Earlier Sunday the typhoon barrelled into the main western island of Shikoku, with huge waves battering the coast. It then hit Honshu near the city of Ako on the southwest coast, ripping through western Japan, the weather agency said.
On Honshu, the weather agency had earlier issued its highest warning — meaning a threat to life and the risk of massive damage — for Mie prefecture, some 300 kilometres west of Tokyo, warning that “unprecedented” torrential rain in the areas could trigger massive landslides or major floods.
Houses and rice paddies were submerged in a wide area of western Japan, mainly on Shikoku island, public broadcaster NHK said. Television footage showed trees uprooted and electricity poles toppled due to the strong wind. Local authorities, mainly in western Japan, issued evacuation advisories to more than 1.6 million people in total, NHK said.
More than 300 flights were to be cancelled on Sunday due to the typhoon, which came just as Japan began its annual “Obon” summer holiday, NHK said. On Saturday some 470 flights were grounded as the storm approached. Also on Sunday, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off northern Japan, with the Japan Meteorological Agency warning against landslides due to expected heavy rain. Japanese authorities did not issue a tsunami warning, and there were no immediate reports of damage after the quake.
Halong comes a month after Typhoon Neoguri killed several people and left a trail of destruction in southern Japan. In other weather-related incidents, the body of a 78-year-old man who was washed away last week was recovered from a river in northern Japan Saturday, a local official said. Also last weekend a man drowned in a raging river, while more than half a million people were advised to evacuate as heavy rain from Typhoon Nakri lashed the country.
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