By Agence France-Presse
A powerful typhoon pummelled Japan's southern island of Okinawa Saturday, injuring at least 17 people, as weather officials warned the storm would rip through the Japanese archipelago over the weekend.
Typhoon Trami, packing maximum gusts of 216 kilometres per hour near its centre, was forecast to hit the mainland early Sunday (AFP / Behrouz MEHRI/ MANILA BULLETIN)
Typhoon Trami, packing maximum gusts of 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour near its centre, was forecast to hit the mainland early Sunday and cause extreme weather across the country into Monday.
Local policemen in rain jackets wielding chainsaws were battling the furious wind to remove fallen trees. The gusts were strong enough to overturn a truck and smash the glass windows of a bank.
Some 700 people were evacuated to shelters in Okinawa and electricity was cut to nearly 200,000 homes, public broadcaster NHK said.
Western regions are still recovering from the most powerful typhoon to strike the country in a quarter of a century in early September. Typhoon Jebi claimed 11 lives and shut down Kansai Airport, the main regional airport.
Jiji Press news agency quoted airport authorities as saying Kansai's two runways would be closed from 11:00am Sunday as a precautionary measure.
West Japan Railway said it would suspend all services in the Osaka region and cancel some Shinkansen bullet trains by noon on Sunday.
Seventeen people suffered minor injuries in storm-related accidents in Okinawa and several houses suffered some damage but no one was feared dead, local officials said.
"The number may rise further as we are in the middle of sorting out figures," said Masatsune Miyazato, an official at the island's disaster-management office.
'Very strong force'
The weather agency warned people across Japan to be on alert for strong winds, high waves and heavy rain.
"The typhoon is feared to bring record rainfalls and violent winds over large areas," agency official Yasushi Kajiwara told reporters.
"Please stay on alert, evacuate early and ensure your safety," the official said.
After raking the outlying islands, the typhoon is forecast to pick up speed and approach western Japan on Sunday "with a very strong force" as it barrels over the mainland, he added.
There have already been heavy downpours in large areas of western and eastern Japan, including the capital, as the storm spurred a seasonal rain front.
Fishermen in Kagoshima bay, where the typhoon is expected to make landfall, were already making preparations, tying down their boats as Trami approached -- even as forecasters warned that another typhoon was following in its course.
Angler Masakazu Hirase told AFP: "It's dreadful because we already know there's another typhoon after this one but you cannot compete with nature. We do what we can to limit the damage."
If the forecast holds, it will be the latest in a series of extreme natural events to strike Japan.
Deadly record rains also hit western Japan earlier this year and the country sweltered through one of the hottest summers on record.