(Updates with information on one casualty, typhoon's location)
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO, July 8 One man died, more than 500,000
people were urged to evacuate and hundreds of flights were
cancelled in Japan as a strong typhoon brought torrential rain
and high winds to its southwestern islands and could bring heavy
rain to Tokyo later this week.
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 through the Okinawa island chain
where emergency rain and high-seas warnings were in effect.
The storm was at its most powerful when passing Okinawa,
some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo on Tuesday, but
the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned of heavy rains and
potential flooding in Kyushu, the westernmost of Japan's main
islands, as well as heavy rain in the rest of the nation as the
storm turns east later in the week.
"People must take the utmost caution," Keiji Furuya, state
minister in charge of disaster management, told a news
One man died after his boat was swamped by high waves, NHK
national television said. Several people suffered minor injuries
More than 50,000 households in Okinawa lost power and an oil
refinery halted operations. Television footage showed a
collapsed roof of a shopping arcade, street lights rocking in
high winds and branches being blown down largely deserted
There are no nuclear plants on Okinawa, but there are two on
Kyushu, 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 and the Fukushima
Daiichi nuclear plant, which was wrecked by an earthquake and
tsunami in March 2011, is on the other side of the country.
"When the wind blows most strongly, it's impossible to
stand. You have to hold on to something," said Kei Shima, a
self-employed Okinawa resident in her 30s. "The lights are
fading in and out, like the house is haunted. The rain is
getting stronger and falling sideways."
Neoguri was roughly 110 km (68 miles) west of Kumejima of
island at 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) and moving north at 30 kph (19 mph),
with sustained winds of 162 kph (100 mph).
Kadena Air Base, one of the largest U.S. military facilities
on Okinawa, was at its highest level of storm alert and all
outside activity was prohibited.
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.
A JMA official said the storm will maintain its strength as
it heads north but gradually turn to the east, making landfall
in Kyushu before raking its way up the main island of Honshu and
coming close to Tokyo on Friday.
"But it will be weaker by then, so that Tokyo can mainly
expect a lot of rain, and maybe some gusts of wind," he added.
Around two to four typhoons make landfall in Japan each year
but they are unusual in July.
(Additional reporting by Olivier Fabre and Antoni Slodkowski;
Editing by Matt Driskill)