POSTED: 07:52 a.m. HST, Sep 16, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 07:59 a.m. HST, Sep 16, 2013
TOKYO » A powerful typhoon that lashed Japan with torrential rains, leaving two dead, was downgraded to a tropical storm today, although it was still dumping rain on parts of the country.
Offiicals said Typhoon Man-yi damaged homes and flooded parts of the country's popular tourist destination of Kyoto, where 260,000 people were ordered to evacuate to shelters.
It was later downgraded to a tropical storm, and was centered off the eastern coast of Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido, dumping more heavy rain.
Trains in Tokyo and its vicinity were suspended for part of the day, but transportation had mostly resumed in the area by Monday evening, while hundreds of flights were grounded.
The storm forced U.S. military bases in the Tokyo area, including Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Yokota Air Base, Camp Zama and Yokosuka Naval Base, to suspend operations Monday, with base schools closed, according to American Forces Network.
Normal operations will resume Tuesday, the official military news network said in Facebook notices to American servicemen and their families in Japan under the bilateral security pact.
Dozens of people were injured. Police and disaster management officials said the body of a 72-year-old woman was dug out of the debris of her home, which was smashed by a mudslide the night before in Shiga prefecture, east of Kyoto. A 77-year-old woman was found dead in a mudslide in Fukui prefecture.
The Meteorological Agency said the storm dumped an "unprecedented" amount of rainfall in Kyoto and two neighboring prefectures, dumping as much as 3 inches per hour. It lifted a "special warning" for the area Monday.
In Kyoto, where the city's major Katsura River flooded, 260,000 people in the prefectural capital alone were told to evacuate. Hundreds of thousands of others were also ordered to evacuate acrossJapan.
Tourists in Kyoto were taken to safety on boats towed by rescue workers on a flooded riverside street near the normally scenic Arashiyama area.
The government set up an emergency task force to assess damage and support rescue efforts, said Prime Minister's Office official Hikariko Ono. Kyoto and Shiga prefecture asked the Defense Ministry to mobilize relief teams.
More than 100 people were injured across the country by Monday evening, public broadcaster NHK said, citing its own tally. A man was missing after he went to check fish traps in a river in Fukushima prefecture. A 41-year-old woman and her daughter, a fifth-grader, were missing in Mie, central Japan, apparently swept away by a swollen river.
Thousands of homes were flooded across Japan, according to NHK, and about 80,000 houses in the region were without electricity earlier Monday.
As a preventive step, workers at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, about 155 miles northeast of Tokyo, were pumping away rainwater that was pooling around hundreds of storage tanks containing radioactive water.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the rainwater was being released to the ocean and was believed to be untainted. TEPCO said it was pumping away the water to reduce the risk of flooding and potential tank leaks mixing with rainwater, then seeping into the soil or flowing into the sea.
The government's Nuclear Regulation Authority, however, said the pumping and release of the rainwater into the ocean was possibly "an event" subject to reporting under nuclear safety rules. TEPCO said the radioactivity in the released water was within allowed discharge limits, but duty regulators at the plant were checking.
Recent acknowledgements by officials that contaminated water is leaking from the plant have triggered safety concerns.
At Japan's Monju test reactor site in Fukui, which is currently off-line, an emergency data transmission system went down, apparently due to storm damage, regulators said Monday, an indication of risk management issues at Japanese nuclear facilities even after the Fukushima crisis.