Powerful typhoon pounds Japan

July 15, 2007 - 0:0

TOKYO (AFP) -- A powerful typhoon lashed Japan's southern island of Okinawa on Friday, cutting power to nearly 100,000 homes, grounding hundreds of flights and injuring at least seven people.

Described as one of the strongest typhoons in memory, Man-yi whipped up waves of 12 meters (40 feet) off the subtropical island's coasts and turned over trucks in roads. Men trying to clear the damage clung to trees to withstand the violent wind and rain, which was so forceful it uprooted trees and knocked over large fences, television footage showed. "This is one of the biggest typhoons we've experienced in Okinawa," a local hotel employee said by telephone. "We islanders are very nervous. It's fairly dangerous to go out or even drive a car as trash and broken trees are flying in the air," he said. Seven people have been injured in Okinawa from the typhoon since it approached Thursday, although none of them were in serious condition, according to police and the crisis management office. The storm cut off electricity supply to 99,400 households in the Okinawa archipelago. "The winds are so strong. AFP staff are on standby at branch offices, waiting for the winds to calm down," a spokeswoman at Okinawa Electric Power said. The injured people included a 48-year-old man who fell six meters when he was fixing a television antenna on his roof, officials said. Heavy rain was also reported in parts of the Japanese mainland, with 79 millimeters (3.16 inches) drenching the city of Hyuga on the southern island of Kyushu in one hour alone, raising fears of landslides. Authorities in Miyazaki prefecture on Kyushu issued an evacuation advisory to some 2,220 people as some 70 houses were flooded there. "There may be a serious disaster as the typhoon is approaching just after a stretch of rain," said Yasunori Nakatake, an official in Saito city in Miyazaki. "We warned our residents to be on alert as winds and rain are expected to be much stronger from now on," Nakatake said. Man-yi, described as "extremely strong" by the meteorological agency, is packing wind gusts of up to 252 kilometres an hour (156 miles an hour) and moving north at 20 kilometres (12 miles) an hour. Airline companies have cancelled more than 320 flights, according to public broadcaster NHK. The typhoon may cross the Tokyo region early Sunday after lashing western Japan, the meteorological agency said, warning of torrential rain, flooding and landslides. Man-yi is named after a strait that is now a reservoir in Hong Kong. Japan and other nations in the western Pacific are hit each year by lethal typhoons. Last year, Typhoon Shanshan killed nine people in Japan and injured 300 others