TOKYO (Reuters) - A powerful typhoon pounded the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Friday, forcing the evacuation of thousands and the cancellation of hundreds of flights as it headed north towards the main islands.
Up to 500 mm (20 inches) of rain was expected to fall on the southernmost main island of Kyushu by Saturday, further battering areas already hit by heavy rains and flooding earlier this week. More than 8,000 people were advised to evacuate.
Some 100,000 people were left without electricity as Typhoon Man-yi bore down on the tropical Okinawa island chain some 1,600 km (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Twenty-three people were hurt.
NHK public television said more than 300 flights to and from Okinawa were cancelled.
China’s Xinhua news agency reported a Chinese vessel sank on Tuesday some 600 km (360 miles) northwest of Guam as a result of the typhoon, leaving three crew members dead and seven others missing.
Twelve people have been rescued from the Hai Tong 7, Xinhua reported, quoting officials at the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles.
The Chinese-flagged bulk log carrier, owned by Fuzhou Haijing Shipping, was en route from Papua New Guinea to China when the cargo began shifting as the vessel encountered strong winds and 7 meter seas, the survivors were quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, a small Chinese container ship, which broke down in the typhoon’s path northeast of the coastal city of Wenzhou, has been rescued and is being towed to shore, Xinhua said, citing the Ministry of Communications.
Man-yi passed near the Okinawa city of Naha and was around 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Okinoerabu island as of 7:50 p.m. (1050 GMT), moving north at 25 kph (15 mph), Japan’s Meteorological Agency said.
It had winds at its centre of around 160 kph (100 mph) and gusts of up to 234 kph (145 mph), slightly weaker than before.
“This storm is moving slowly, which means that rain will fall for quite some time, especially in places like Kyushu,” an agency official said.
“Rain is the biggest worry with this storm. Given the rain that has already fallen in Kyushu, the chance of damage is high.”
The chances that the storm will make landfall somewhere in Kyushu on Saturday have risen sharply, another official said.
The storm was classified as a category 4 typhoon by British-based Web site Tropical Storm Risk (www.tropicalstormrisk.com).
It is currently likely to turn eastward, after which it will pick up speed and rapidly weaken. It could brush Tokyo on Monday, a national holiday.
Additional reporting by Nick Macfie in Beijing