Thousands evacuated as storm lashes north-east Japan

TOKYO • Tens of thousands of people in north-east Japan were told to evacuate their homes yesterday as heavy rain caused major flooding and cut some rail links, the authorities said.

The storm follows freak rain in south-western Japan earlier this month that left at least 25 people dead. Almost 25,000 people in Akita prefecture were ordered to evacuate, and around 65,000 more were advised to leave or told to prepare to leave the area, an official at Akita prefecture said.

Several rivers were flooded and more than 100 houses have been inundated by flood waters, the official said. No injuries or deaths have been reported, but the authorities are still investigating, he added.

Some bullet trains running to and from Akita have been suspended because of the heavy rain, the East Japan Railway said on its website.

"There is a significant amount of water accumulating in the land. Even if the heavy rain stops, we will continue to warn people to stay vigilant," the Akita official said.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong lowered a typhoon alert yesterday evening as Typhoon Roke weakened, with the local airport and transport authorities rushing to restore normal operations in the Asian financial hub.

The Hong Kong Observatory yesterday morning raised its typhoon alert to eight - close to the top rating of 10 - as Roke was expected to make landfall over the eastern part of the city.

A reading of eight means businesses, government offices and schools stay closed, including banks, port operations and the Hong Kong stock exchange. The alert was lowered to one by the evening.

At 6pm local time, Roke was estimated to be 180km west-northwest of Hong Kong, and was forecast to move west or west-northwest at about 20kmh across inland Guangdong and continue to weaken, the observatory said.

Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong, issued a level three alert, the China Meteorological Administration said last Saturday night.

Yesterday, a cargo ship with 12 people aboard capsized in waters off the coast of Guangdong, Chinese state media said. All 12 were safely rescued.

In Hong Kong, a spokesman for the international airport, one of the world's busiest, said about half a dozen flights to and from the city were cancelled and over 300 flights were delayed due to the typhoon.

Local trains were operating normally, but some bus and ferry services were cancelled earlier in the day, as per announcements on government websites. An annual book fair was temporarily closed.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2017, with the headline 'Thousands evacuated as storm lashes north-east Japan'. Print Edition | Subscribe