Powerful typhoon heads for southern Japan, 15 injured

Sunday, September 5th 2004, 9:24 am
By: News On 6

TOKYO (AP) _ A typhoon billed as the strongest to hit southern Japan in at least three decades lashed Okinawa island with heavy rains and high winds Sunday and headed toward Japan's main islands. Fifteen people were injured, a news report said.

Flights to and from Okinawa, about 1,000 miles southwest of Tokyo, were canceled while trains and buses halted service as Typhoon Songda moved over the island, after abruptly veering from a course that would have taken it to Taiwan.

Television footage showed waves crashing over protective embankments and flooding the streets of coastal Okinawan towns. The Meteorological Agency warned of high tides and said that seas around southwestern Japan would get increasingly rough.

Public broadcaster NHK reported fifteen people were injured as the storm dumped heavy rains and unleashed powerful winds across the area.

By evening, the typhoon had passed over central Okinawa and was moving northwest, the agency said. It was expected to reach Kyushu, one of Japan's main islands, by Monday evening, the agency added.

Songda was the strongest typhoon to lash Okinawa since the Meteorological Agency started keeping records for the prefecture in 1972, when the United States returned the island to Japanese control after occupying it after World War II.

Last week, Typhoon Chaba plowed through a large swathe of Japan, killing at least nine as gusts knocked people over and high waves demolished coastal homes. Police said the storm injured 204 people and flooded more than 19,000 homes.

The Meteorological Agency said Songda was expected to pour 12 inches of rain on the Okinawan and the Amami islands within the next 24 hours.

Songda, which is named after a branch of Vietnam's Red River, had been heading west toward Taiwan before it changed course and veered north early Sunday, Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau said.

Taiwan could still suffer heavy rain Sunday and Monday, forecasters said, warning people in mountainous areas to watch out for flash floods and landslides.

Taiwan is still recovering from flooding and mudslides triggered by Typhoon Aere last week in the island's north. The storm killed more than 30 people and left several missing.

Another severe storm, Mindulle, ravaged central and southern Taiwan in July, killing 29 people.