Typhoon batters Japan, leaving 3 people dead

Saturday, August 9, 2003

TOKYO -- A typhoon packing winds of up to 136 miles per hour battered Japan on Friday, snarling traffic, cutting electricity and killing three people.

Three others were missing and dozens of people suffered minor injuries, police and media reports said.

Typhoon Etau had skirted the coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, and increased in force, striking the neighboring main islands of Shikoku and Honshu, the nation's Meteorological Agency said. It was directly over southern Tokushima state and swirling toward the northeast, the agency said.

The fringe of Etau -- which means "storm cloud" in the language of the Pacific island of Palau -- is expected to touch Tokyo, the agency said.

Several thousand sought refuge in school gyms and other evacuation centers, public broadcaster NHK reported. Hundreds of homes were flooded or damaged by falling poles or landslides.

Television reports aired footage of splintered trees, toppled trucks and damaged rooftops.

A 63-year-old farmer died after falling into a swollen river in the southwestern city of Okayama, said police spokesman Yutaka Kanno. His body was later found downstream, Kanno said.

On Shikoku, a 71-year-old man drowned while trying to moor his riverboat, police said, and a 77-year-old woman died after she was knocked to the ground by strong winds, the Kyoto news agency reported.

Police said three others were missing on Shikoku.

The agency warned several southern states, as far as 124 miles away, to brace for gusts of more than 55 miles per hour and said the typhoon could dump up to 28 inches of rain in the region over the next 24 hours.

The typhoon also grounded flights and disrupted train service to the region. Power was cut off to 22,500 homes, said a spokesman for Kyushu Electric Power Co., Hiroshi Takashi.

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