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Japan typhoon drives thousands from homes

Typhoon Nabi hit southern Japan and South Korea on Tuesday, killing five people, injuring dozens and forcing tens of thousands to evacuate.
Rescuers search for survivors in the debris of houses destroyed by a heavy mud slide in Tarumizu, southern Japan, on Tuesday.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Typhoon Nabi lashed southern Japan and South Korea on Tuesday, killing five people, injuring dozens and forcing tens of thousands to flee their homes.

At least 15 others were reported missing as waves driven by 78 mph winds slammed into coastal barriers and storm surges flooded seaside towns.

The typhoon made landfall and traveled up Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu, weather officials said. Heavy rain and wind also pounded the neighboring island of Shikoku.

By late evening, the storm had moved into the Sea of Japan and was heading northeast over open water.

Nabi, which means “butterfly” in Korean, grounded hundreds of flights, blocked train and ferry services and closed highways, stranding tens of thousands.

“The wind and rain were so strong earlier this morning, I could hardly walk — I couldn’t leave the building,” said Mitoshi Shiroi from his flooded grocery store in Kyushu’s Tarumizu town. “The water just keeps on coming in from under the door.”

Japan sent 70 soldiers to fortify barriers, assist evacuees and provide other help in storm-hit areas, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda.

More than 270,000 households in Kyushu lost power, said Kyushu Electric Power Co. spokesman Tetsuo Yano.

Prime minister cuts trip short
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi cut short a two-day campaign trip to western Japan ahead of Sept. 11 national elections.

The storm killed at least five people and injured 53, a National Police Agency official said on condition of anonymity, citing agency rules. Another 15 were missing, he said.

Three people were killed when landslides swept through their homes in Kagoshima, said police official Hideaki Torigoe. A landslide killed another man in neighboring Miyazaki prefecture, said local police official Takayoshi Tanaka.

A 72-year-old man drowned in Tokushima prefecture on Shikoku after being blown into a rain-swollen ditch.

Police in several Kyushu prefectures and on nearby Shikoku island said 16 others were missing, and more than 60,000 were ordered to evacuate their homes. National broadcaster NHK reported 51 people had been injured.

The weather hindered rescue efforts for those trapped by landslides, officials said.

Ferry service was canceled between South Korea and the Japanese city of Fukuoka, and between Kyushu and western Japan. Train service in southern Japan also was disrupted by landslides, NHK reported.

Japan Airlines and its affiliates canceled 307 flights and All Nippon Airlines grounded 374 flights, affecting more than 60,000 people, the carriers said.

Japan’s Meteorological Agency said up to 20 inches of rain was expected in Kyushu and Shikoku, as well as western Honshu island, by Wednesday.

Year's first typhoon in S. Korea
Nabi was expected to move northeast and become the first typhoon to hit South Korea this year.

The 5,470-ton Vietnamese cargo ship Long Xuyen ran aground near South Korea’s southeastern port city of Pohang, but its crew of 22 was safe, the Yonhap news agency reported.

An elderly South Korean is also believed to have been swept away in a swollen river after falling from a bridge in the southern city of Ulsan, Yonhap said.

Winds tore down billboards and uprooted trees in South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan, about 280 miles southeast of Seoul, Yonhap said. Busan received up to 6 inches of rain by Tuesday afternoon.

Last year, a record 10 typhoons and tropical storms struck Japan, leaving nearly 220 people dead or missing — the largest casualty toll since 1983.

Typhoon Tokage in October was Japan’s deadliest storm in more than a decade, killing 83.