US military officials feared dead as typhoon slams into Japan

Strong typhoon Phanfone slammed into Japan on Monday, packing gusting winds and huge waves that swept three US military officials out to sea in another stark reminder of the country's vulnerability to nature.

PTI| Last Updated: Oct 06, 2014, 18:20 PM IST

Tokyo: Strong typhoon Phanfone slammed into Japan on Monday, packing gusting winds and huge waves that swept three US military officials out to sea in another stark reminder of the country's vulnerability to nature.

Just over a week after a volcano killed dozens of hikers when it erupted without warning, winds of up to 180 kilometres per hour whipped ashore, bringing heavy rain and travel chaos throughout a swathe of the archipelago.

The storm whirled over Tokyo at around 11:00 am (0200 GMT) and then headed northeast, dumping rain further up the coast of Honshu while its eye moved out over the Pacific Ocean.

Seven people were left dead or missing, including the three US military officials who had been photographing the storm, Japanese police and coast guards said.

Typhoon Phanfone grounded more than 600 flights, and caused the cancellation of dozens of bullet train services, leaving travellers stranded in stations.

The leading edge of the storm brought a nasty commute to Tokyo's morning rush hour, with hundreds of thousands of office workers caught up in the driving rain that lashed the streets.

Localised flooding was reported while television footage showed around 15 of the 20-metre (66-foot) high poles holding up the netting at a golf driving range had collapsed, crashing into houses in Chiba, east of Tokyo.

The storm also battered Japan's auto industries.

Toyota Motor temporarily suspended operations at its 12 factories in Aichi, central Japan, due to the impact of the typhoon on its parts supplies, a company spokeswoman said, adding that production lines reopened by today evening.

 The weather agency warned that even as the storm passed out to sea landslides and floods were still a risk in a country where a relatively wet summer brought numerous landslides, including in Hiroshima where more than 70 people died.

 In the central Japanese prefecture of Shizuoka, more than 50,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes, while around 1.7 million others were advised to take refuge, local authorities said.

 Three US military officials were engulfed by high waves triggered by the storm on the southern island of Okinawa.

 "Three officials were taking pictures with high waves whipped up by the typhoon in the background," a local police spokesman said.

 "One has been found dead, with the two others still missing," he said early Monday.

 A 21-year-old surfer was also missing in the Pacific off Fujisawa, southwest of Tokyo, a coast guard spokesman said.