Tokyo: Typhoon Vongfong churned towards Japan on Saturday, injuring at least 20 people as it pounded the southern Okinawan islands with ferocious winds and driving rain.
The monster storm was estimated to be about 110 kilometres (68 miles) southeast of Naha City in Japan’s southernmost area of Okinawa at 0800 GMT, according to the nation’s meteorological agency.
Cars drive past a potted plant blown onto the road by strong winds caused by Typhoon Vongfong in Naha, Okinawa. PIC/AFP
The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre has downgraded the storm from a super typhoon, but Japanese officials said it remained “large and very strong” and warned of high waves, torrential rain and landslides.
Packing gusts of up to 234 kilometres (145 miles) per hour, the typhoon moved north slowly, at 15 kilometres (nine miles) per hour.
Naha Airport remained shut and land transport was also disrupted.
Vongfong is expected to approach Japan’s southern main island of Kyushu by early Monday after brushing off Okinawa, and could make landfall, the meteorological agency said.
Okinawa was already experiencing gusts and heavy rain, which caused a blackout in 33,000 households.
At least 20 people have been injured, including a nine-year-old girl and a man in his 20s, who lost fingers after they were caught in doors slammed shut by strong winds in two cities, municipal officials said.
The typhoon came just a week after another strong tropical storm whipped through the country, leaving 11 people dead or missing in a nation prone to natural disasters. Earthquakes shook northern Japan on Saturday, two weeks after a volcano in the central part of the archipelago erupted without warning, killing at least 56 hikers.
In late August, a downpour in western Japan’s Hiroshima triggered massive landslides and killed more than 70 people.