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More than 1 million urged to evacuate as typhoon nears Japan; Hawaii flights canceled

By Star-Advertiser news services

and staff reports

LAST UPDATED: 10:43 a.m. HST, Sep 20, 2011

TOKYO >> More than a million people in central Japan were urged to evacuate today as a powerful typhoon approached, triggering floods that left two people missing. The storm also led to the cancelation of three flights to Tokyo from Honolulu and a flight from Nagoya.

Public broadcaster NHK said about 1.3 million people have been ordered or advised to leave their homes, including 80,000 people in Nagoya.

Heavy rains as the storm approached caused floods and road damage in dozens of locations in Nagoya and several other cities, the Aichi prefectural (state) government said.

Television footage showed Nagoya residents wading through water up to their knees. In parts of the city near swollen rivers, rescue workers helped residents evacuate in rubber boats.

Police in nearby Gifu prefecture said a 9-year-old boy and an 84-year-old man were missing after apparently falling into swollen rivers.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said Typhoon Roke was off the southern coast of Japan's southwestern main island of Shikoku tonight with winds of 89 mph. It could reach Tokyo by Wednesday afternoon, the agency said.

(Three Delta Airlines fights slated to leave Honolulu for Narita International Airport near Tokyo today were cancelled. Delta also cancelled a fight from Narita that was supposed to arrive at Honolulu Airport at 9 a.m.)

Japan Airlines Co. canceled 49 domestic flights today as of 6 p.m. because of the typhoon, according to the company's website.

The typhoon is forecast to take three days to pass over Japan and its storm warning area is due to cover most of the country in that time, according to the meteorological agency's website.

Earlier this month, Typhoon Talas dumped record rainfall on southern Japan, causing mudslides and floods that killed 67 people and left 26 missing. Talas was the deadliest storm to hit Japan in seven years.

"The major difference between the two typhoons was Talas was slow-moving over the Kii peninsula, dumping rain in the same area, while Roke is fast moving," Kenji Okada, a forecaster at the Japan Meteorological Agency, said. "Roke is bringing strong gusts and dumping rain in a wide region."

Roke, due in Fukushima prefecture in 48 hours, may hinder work to control leakage of water into the basements of the Dai- Ichi reactor buildings.

Since July, much of Tokyo Electric's work in Fukushima has focused on decontaminating highly radiated cooling water that ran off into basements and trenches at the damaged reactors.

The utility has been injecting water into Dai-Ichi's reactors since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems, causing the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Reactors need to be cooled below 100 degrees Celsius to shut down the plant.

Levels of contaminated water in Dai-Ichi basements have fallen more than 14 percent in the last month as Tepco speeded up water decontamination by adding a system supplied by Toshiba Corp. and Shaw Group Inc.

The company is installing a cover for the No. 1 reactor building and aims to put similar covers over units 3 and 4 next year after debris is cleared, Tokyo Electric spokesman Takeo Iwamoto said today. The tops of those three units were blown off by hydrogen explosions in March.

Still, the covers are unlikely to prevent rainwater from flowing into the basements, Tokyo Electric spokesman Hajime Motojuku said.


The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Star-Advertiser reporter Gregg K. Kakesako contributed to this story.

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