TOKYO, Aug 22 — A powerful typhoon struck near Tokyo today, the first in 11 years to come ashore in the densely populated region, temporarily shutting down a major city airport and grounding more than 500 flights nationwide.
Typhoon Mindulle made landfall at about 12:30pm (0330 GMT) in Tateyama city 80 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
As of 7pm the storm — packing gusts up to 144 kilometres per hour — was moving through Fukushima prefecture north of Tokyo and heading north-northeast at 35 kilometres per hour, the agency said.
According to public broadcaster NHK, a total of 30 people were injured. Most of them were minor but a 34-year-old man broke his rib after falling due to strong winds.
“In Tokyo… please exercise caution for landslides, flooding in low-lying areas, surging rivers, violent wind and high waves,” the weather agency said.
It was the first typhoon in 11 years to score a direct hit on the Tokyo region from the sea, the agency said.
Tokyo has experienced other typhoons in ensuing years but they all came ashore elsewhere before moving on to the capital region.
Downpours caused rivers to swell, with gushing waterways close to overflowing but staying within their banks.
Narita international airport east of Tokyo closed its runways in the afternoon for about an hour as officers evacuated the control tower due to strong winds, according to the airport operator.
Airlines across the country cancelled a total of 508 flights, mostly to and from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, NHK said.
Japan Airlines said it cancelled 185 domestic flights, affecting 33,692 customers, while All Nippon Airways cancelled 112 domestic flights, affecting 26,500 passengers.
Narita is a major passenger airport and Japan’s biggest in terms of cargo. Haneda is the country’s biggest in overall passenger traffic.
Most major commuter train services in Tokyo and its surrounding region operated normally, including bullet trains.
Some lines, however, suffered temporary delays and stoppages. One train in western Tokyo derailed but no one was hurt.
Some trains on Tokyo’s major loop line were forced to stop as a tree fell on a track.
Separately, Typhoon Kompasu, which hit Japan’s northern main island of Hokkaido yesterday, was downgraded to a temperate depression by early today as it moved away into the Sea of Okhotsk.
Heavy rain since Saturday caused high waves and rivers to flood on the island, where rescue workers found a male body this morning.
Police did not immediately link the death to the storm, but local media said it might be the owner of a vehicle stranded by heavy rain.
The local Hokkaido government has said the storm has caused only three minor injuries so far. — AFP