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US military officials feared dead as typhoon slams into Japan

06 october 2014, 14:03
0

 Strong typhoon Phanfone made landfall in central Japan on Monday, slamming into the archipelago with winds of 180 kilometres (112 miles) per hour and making a beeline for Tokyo, the country's meteorological agency said, AFP reports.

The storm has already left four people dead or missing, including three US military officials, according to Japanese police and coast guards.

"Typhoon No 18 made landfall near Hamamatsu City" and was heading towards the Tokyo metropolitan area, an agency official told AFP by telephone.

Typhoon Phanfone has also grounded more than 600 flights and forced Japanese authorities to suspend a search for the bodies of those still missing more than a week after a volcano erupted, claiming dozens of lives.

The leading edge of the typhoon was whipping rain and strong winds through Tokyo's morning rush hour.

The storm system was estimated to be 200 kilometres (124 miles) southwest of the capital at 8:00 am (2300 GMT on Sunday) and moving northeast at 45 kilometres per hour, the weather agency said.

The agency warned that landslides, floods, high waves and heavy rains could hit a large swathe of the archipelago, where a relatively wet summer brought numerous landslides, including in Hiroshima where at least 70 people died.

Local governments in many areas issued evacuation advisories to more than 300,000 residents, according to public broadcaster NHK said.

The first fatalities of Phanfone had already been recorded.

Three US military officials were engulfed by high waves triggered by the storm on the southern island of Okinawa.

"Three officials were taking pictures with high waves whipped up by the typhoon in the background," a spokesman at local police said.

"One has been found dead, with the two others still missing," he said early Monday.

A 21-year-old surfer was also missing in the Pacific off Fujisawa, southwest of Tokyo, a coast guard spokesman said.

About 10 people were injured across the nation in storm-related accidents, NHK said.

At least 608 flights were grounded on Monday because of the winds after 216 flights were cancelled on Sunday, the network said.

Meanwhile, the search was suspended for the bodies of at least 12 hikers believed to be lying on the still-smouldering Mount Ontake, from where 51 have already been retrieved.

The volcano was packed with walkers when it burst angrily to life on September 27, with many there to witness the spectacular colours of the countryside at the arrival of autumn.

The eruption is Japan's deadliest in almost 90 years and nearly 1,000 troops, firefighters and police have participated in a search made treacherous by the gases still rising from the peak, as well as a knee-deep layer of sticky ash.

"We want to resume operations as soon as possible when weather permits," said an official of the crisis management office of Nagano, where the volcano sits.


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