By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, Sept 21 A powerful typhoon struck Japan
on Wednesday, killing six people, disrupting public
transportation and pummeling Tokyo and northeastern Japan
including the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear plant with
heavy rain, officials and media said.
Typhoon Roke, the second big storm to hit Japan this month,
was packing winds of up to 180 km per hour (110 miles per hour)
at its centre and dumped more than 30 cm (12 inches) of rain in
parts of northeastern Japan over the past 24 hours, the Japan
Meteorological Agency said.
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.3 struck
eastern and northeastern Japan at about 10:30 p.m. (1300 GMT) as
the storm passed through the area that was damaged by a massive
quake and tsunami in March, the Meteorological Agency said.
No tsunami alert was issued and no abnormalities were
reported at the Fukushima nuclear power plant following the
quake, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
Roke made landfall on Wednesday afternoon near Hamamatsu,
200 km (125 miles) west of Tokyo, then cut a path through the
Tokyo area and was in Fukushima prefecture at 9:00 p.m. (1200
GMT) moving in the northeast direction, the Meteorological
Television showed waves crashing over breakwaters on the
Pacific coast, trees knocked down on streets of Tokyo and train
stations packed with stranded commuters.
Tokyo Electric Power Co , the operator of the
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 240 km northeast of Tokyo,
said the typhoon had so far caused no damage to the plant.
"The biggest element of concern is the rise of (radioactive)
water levels in turbine buildings," Junichi Matsumoto, a Tokyo
Electric official, told a news conference.
The site still holds huge amounts of water used to cool
reactors where fuel meltdowns took place after cooling systems
were knocked out by the March disaster, raising concerns that
heavy rain could cause radioactive water to overflow into the
sea and groundwater.
"We expect to be able to withstand (an overflow) even if
water levels rise suddenly," Matsumoto said.
The storm poured 20 cm of rain on Wednesday in an area near
the plant. Water levels are rising in turbine buildings and
Tokyo Electric is continuing to monitor the situation, the
Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
About 200,000 people were ordered or advised to evacuate
their homes, public broadcaster NHK reported. Many levees and
seawalls destroyed by the March disaster have yet to be fixed.
Roke also halted commuter trains in and around Tokyo,
stranding thousands of passengers as they tried to go home early
before the storm hit the capital.
More than 610 flights had been cancelled, NHK reported,
while Central Japan Railway said it had suspended some
bullet train services.
Toyota said it planned to close 11 factories in central
Japan early on Wednesday and cancel evening shifts. Nissan
halted production at two plants at 2 p.m. (0500 GMT) and
Mitsubishi Heavy closed six plants.
Earlier this month, Typhoon Talas hit western Japan and left
about 100 people dead or missing. An average of two to four
typhoons make landfall each year in Japan.
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota, Kiyoshi Takenaka, Linda Sieg, Tim
Kelly and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Chris Gallagher and