Typhoon pounds Tokyo

TOKYO: The most powerful typhoon to hit eastern Japan in a decade pummelled Tokyo yesterday, snarling transport at the start of a long holiday weekend and forcing thousands in the countryside to evacuate. 

Ma-on was the record ninth typhoon to hit Japan this year and the second in two weeks. It left two people missing and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights, stranding thousands at the start of the weekend 

Around 2,400 people throughout Japan were evacuated from their homes, seeking refuge in schools and public halls, Kyodo news agency said. 

“The worst for Tokyo should be over quickly, although care must still be taken against high winds and heavy rain for a little while,” a Meteorological Agency official said, as torrential rain and high winds lashed the capital city. 

The storm halted service on several subway lines and flooded streets in parts of downtown Tokyo with knee-deep water. 

“I really should have stayed home,” said a man struggling with his umbrella in Tokyo's posh Ginza shopping district. 

Some parts of central Tokyo were hit with as much as 69mm of rain in an hour, said NHK national television. 

At least 87 international flights were cancelled along with hundreds of domestic ones, it said. 

The storm made landfall in Shizuoka, 150km west of here.  

Record strong gusts of 243kph were recorded in one Shizuoka town. 

A 74-year-old newspaper delivery man on his rounds in Chiba was believed to have been swept into a river and a man in his 60s was carried away by rising floodwaters in Shizuoka, said police and media reports. 

Several people were injured, including a man who broke both legs in a fall from his roof while repairing it. 

Television footage showed railway lines inundated by floodwaters and cars bobbing in flooded streets in Shizuoka. 

Ma-on, which means “horse saddle” in Cantonese, also forced the postponement of qualifying for today's Japanese Grand Prix motor racing event to the morning of the competition, an unprecedented move taken after the storm disrupted practice on Friday at Suzuka, around 300km west of here. 

The Grand Prix will be held as scheduled. 

Meteorological officials said the storm, which triggered several landslides in central Japan, but without reports of injuries or major damage, was the most powerful to hit eastern Japan in a decade. 

In India and Bangladesh, the death toll from days of heavy rains rose to at least 79 yesterday, with over one million displaced by floodwaters, said officials and media reports. 

Another seven were missing in India's north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh after a boat they were in capsized, said an official. 

Guwahati, the commercial hub of nearby Assam state, was reeling from the deluge, which weather officials described as the worst in a decade to strike the city.  

Many parts were waist deep in water and homes were flooded. People perched on trees, rooftops and balconies waiting for rescue by army speedboats or helicopters. Others used bamboo rafts and inflatable tyres to flee to safety. 

Weather officials said the deluge, caused by a depression in the Bay of Bengal, had blown over and better weather was expected in the next few days. – Agencies  

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