TOKYO, July 8 A powerful typhoon forced Japanese
authorities to cancel flights and urge more than 100,000 people
to evacuate their homes on Tuesday as the storm threatened to
bring torrential rain and high winds to Japan's southern
Typhoon Neoguri weakened from its original status as a super
typhoon but remained intense, with gusts of more than 250 km per
hour (155 mph). It was powering towards the Okinawa island chain
where emergency rain and high-seas warnings were in effect.
More than 100,000 people in the tropical island chain, some
1,600 km (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo, were urged to
evacuate. Nearly 7,000 households lost power and an oil refinery
There are no nuclear plants on Okinawa but there are two on
Kyushu, Japan's westernmost main island, which lies in the area
through which the typhoon is likely to pass after hitting
Okinawa. There is another on Shikoku island, which borders
Kyushu and could also be affected.
All are shut down due to national policy. The Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear plant, wrecked by the March 2011 tsunami and
still struggling to contain leaks of radioactive water, is on
the other side of the country, out of the path of the storm.
In Okinawa, television footage showed sheets of rain and
palm trees tossed by wind as high waves lashed breakwaters.
"This is an extraordinary situation, where a grave danger is
approaching," an official at Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA)
told a news conference on Monday night.
Neoguri was roughly 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Miyako
island at 0745 a.m. (2245 GMT Monday) and moving northwest at 20
kph (12 mph), with sustained winds of 180 kph (110 mph).
Kadena Air Base, one of the largest U.S. military facilities
on Okinawa and host to some 75 percent of U.S. forces in Japan,
was on its highest level of storm alert and people were told to
Nansei Sekiyu KK, a Japanese refiner wholly owned by
Brazil's Petrobras, said it had suspended oil
refining operations at its 100,000 barrels-per-day Nishihara
refinery in Okinawa on Monday evening.
Around two to four typhoons make landfall in Japan each year
but they are unusual in July.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Paul