TOKYO (AP) — A powerful typhoon pounded across the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Tuesday, as residents took refuge from destructive winds, towering waves and storm surges.
Airports closed and residents were evacuated from low-lying areas and shorelines as Typhoon Neoguri was passing through Okinawa, packing sustained winds of 175 kilometers (108 miles) per hour and gusts up to 250 kph (154 mph), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The storm was due to hit the main Okinawan city of Naha Tuesday evening. The national broadcaster said one woman had suffered a head injury due to the storm and one 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 some downed trees.
Officials said the storm could be one of the strongest to hit Japan in decades, generating waves up to 14 meters (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, 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, weather forecasters said.
Evacuation advisories were issued for some 500,000 people, and about 500 sought refuge in Naha’s city hall, NHK reported.
Government leaders held an emergency meeting Monday, urging urged 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 island 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. Such risks are elevated by the storm’s timing, on the tail end of Japan’s summer rainy season.
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 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the northernmost province of Batanes, when it roared past on Sunday.
The typhoon did intensify the country’s southwest monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western Philippine provinces.