Officials tell the public to take shelter as Okinawa is battered by winds of more than 150mph and 46-ft-high waves
– Typhoon Neoguri pounds Japan as 500,000 are advised to leave homes (Guardian, July 8, 2014):
A powerful typhoon is pounding the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa, with residents taking refuge from destructive winds, towering waves and storm surges.
Airports closed and residents were evacuated from low-lying areas and shorelines as typhoon Neoguri passed through Okinawa, with sustained wind speeds of 108 miles (175km) an hour and gusts of up to 154mph, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The storm was due to hit the main Okinawan city of Naha on Tuesday evening. Japanese national broadcaster NHK said one woman had suffered a head injury in the storm and a fisherman was missing after he was swept off a boat in seas near the southern island of Kyushu.
Television footage showed roads in Naha strewn with greenery and trees brought down.
Officials said the storm could be one of the strongest to hit Japan in decades, generating waves up to 14 metres (46 feet) high. But since typhoons track along Japan’s coasts and occasionally veer onshore every summer, the country is relatively well prepared.
“Please take refuge as early as possible,” said Keiji Furuya, the chairman of the national public safety commission.
The meteorological agency issued special warnings for violent winds, heavy rain and storm surges. The storm was moving slowly and diminishing in intensity, but its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage, forecasters said.
About 500,000 people were advised to evacuate, and about 500 sought refuge in Naha’s city hall, NHK reported.
Government leaders held an emergency meeting on Monday, urging local governments and residents to take maximum precautions. Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.
Forecasts show the storm tracking toward Kyushu and then across Japan’s main island of Honshu. It is forecast to lose more of its power over land, but much of the damage from such storms comes from downpours that cause landslides and flooding. This storm, coming at the end of Japan’s rainy season, could have especially heavy rain.
The Philippines, which suffered the strongest typhoon to ever hit land when Haiyan struck six months ago, was spared the ferocious winds of Neoguri. The storm did not make land fall and remained about 300 miles (480km) east of the northernmost province of Batanes, when it roared past on Sunday.
The typhoon did intensify the country’s south-west monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western Philippine provinces.