Typhoon Vongfong steadies toward Japan

A powerful typhoon continues to move toward Japan’s Okinawa chain of islands bringing with it heavy winds that have already knocked out power and disrupted air flights.

Mainichi newspaper has reported that so far, 14 people have been injured by the storm’s gusty winds; winds that have already reached up to 243 km/h.

Being the strongest storm of the year, Typhoon Vongfong (vongfong means wasp in Cantonese) was only 150 km southeast of Naha City, the largest city in Okinawa, as of Saturday midnight. According to Japan Meterological Agency (JMA), the typhoon is slowly making its way north at about 15 km/h.

Local media outlets say that by Sunday morning, the storm is expected to have reached Okinawa, some 1,600 km southwest of Tokyo, then weaken as it carries on to hit land Monday morning on the main island of Kyushu. From there, it’s expected the storm will head northeast toward the country’s main island of Honshu.

As of Saturday, all flights to and from Okinawa’s Nahar Airport remain cancelled due to the storm. Okinawa Electric Power says that at least 27,000 homes remain without electricity. Heeding to national policy, operations in both nuclear plants (one on Shikoku island, the other on Kyushu), have been shut down.

The country’s current Typhoon Vongfong is following in the path of a previous typhoon, Phanfone, that hit the region on Monday, causing massive transit delays and prompting evacuations for hundreds of thousands of residents. Typhoon Phanfone killed seven people including one surfer and three US airmen that were swept out to sea.

JMA says it’s unusual for two powerful typhoons to hit one after the other like this. Each year, Japan sees two to four typhoons make landfall.