Friday 22 March 2019

Japan counts the cost of devastating typhoon

Destruction: Vehicles damaged by Typhoon Jebi are seen in Kobe, western Japan. Photo: Reuters
Destruction: Vehicles damaged by Typhoon Jebi are seen in Kobe, western Japan. Photo: Reuters

Mari Yamaguchi

One of Japan's busiest airports remained closed indefinitely a day after the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in at least 25 years flooded a runway, toppled huge cranes, flipped cars on their side, damaged historic shrines and caused at least 11 deaths as it swept across part of Japan's main island.

Typhoon Jebi came ashore with sustained winds of 160kmh, cutting a path of destruction in and around Osaka and nearby cities that bore the brunt of the storm.

A large commercial ship was washed onto a breakwater, and shipping containers were left floating in the sea.

In Kyoto, the former imperial capital and a popular tourist destination, wooden shrine buildings and tall entrance gates were knocked down. Soaring trees fell at a shrine in Nara, another historic city.

More than 400,000 households in western and central Japan remained without power yesterday, and electric utilities warned it would take time to bring everyone back on line.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at least 11 people had been confirmed dead and 470 injured.

Death toll: Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at least 11 people had died
Death toll: Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at least 11 people had died

Some 3,000 airline passengers who had to spend the night at the offshore Kansai airport were able to leave on boats and buses under sunny skies. They were stranded after a tanker ripped from its moorings by the storm's pounding waves and wind slammed into a bridge that is the airport's only link to the mainland.

Officials could not say when the airport, a gateway for Asian tourists visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, would reopen. The closure of the main airport serving one of Japan's major business and commercial areas triggered concern about the possible impact on tourism and the economy.

Flooding at the airport had subsided yesterday but flight operations equipment had to be assessed for damage, as did the crushed part of the bridge. The airport was built on artificial islands in Osaka Bay.

Passengers stranded overnight appeared relieved but exhausted after an uneasy night in the dark.

Hideko Senoo, a 51-year-old woman planning a family trip to India, said the terminal was hot and dark after losing power, and food at convenience stores was sold out. "We could not use vending machines or access the wireless network to get information," she said.

The Universal Studios theme park in Osaka was closed for a second day yesterday but said it would reopen today.

Factories in the region, including carmaker Daihatsu, electronics giant Panasonic and drinks maker Kirin, were expected to resume operations after suspending production during the typhoon.

Irish Independent

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