2 dead as typhoon brings heavy rain, wind to election-day Japan

A woman struggles with her umbrella in the strong wind in Tokyo on Oct 22, 2017. PHOTO: AFP
Shoppers walk under umbrellas as Typhoon Lan approaches Japan's mainland, in Osaka, western Japan, on Oct 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS
High waves caused by Typhoon Lan break on the shores of Senjojiki, Shirahama town, Wakayama prefecture, Japan, on Oct 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS/KYODO

TOKYO (AFP) - A powerful typhoon barrelled towards Japan on Sunday (Oct 22), leaving two dead and more than 10 injured, as millions struggled to the polls for a national election.

Authorities advised thousands living in coastal areas or near rivers to evacuate to shelters as Typhoon Lan, described as "very large and very strong", dumped torrential rain over much of the country.

According to Japan's meteorological agency, the storm packed gusts up to 216 kilometres per hour Sunday night in the Pacific south of Japan and may hit Tokyo and surrounding regions early Monday (Oct 23).

The typhoon claimed its first victims as a male passerby died when scaffolding collapsed on him at a construction site in Fukuoka, western Japan, public broadcaster NHK said.

And a 70-year-old man was found dead after he dived into the sea to grab a rope from another vessel as he attempted to escape from his troubled boat, a coastguard told AFP.

At least 11 people were injured across the nation, NHK said.

Strong winds forced airline companies to ground more than 500 flights, while some train and ferry services in western Japan were cancelled, local media said.

Television footage showed rescuers tugging a rubber boat carrying an elderly woman in a residential area in Chiba southeast of Tokyo as a flooded river engulfed the area.

Toyota Motor said it would suspend operations at all domestic plants on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered his minister in charge of disasters to be ready to mobilise rescue and evacuation forces, including troops.

"In order to protect people's lives, the Abe cabinet will unite and do its best to provide an emergency response to a disaster," he told reporters.

Sever local governments in Osaka and other prefectures issued evacuation advisories, urging thousands of residents living near the coast, rivers and hillsides to move to shelters.

The weather agency separately warned of high waves, landslides and floods in central and western Japan.

Voters in the capital braved torrential rain and driving wind on election day, as opinion polls indicate Abe is on course for a comfortable win.

Voting was delayed by some 20 minutes in Kochi in western Japan when landslides blocked a road, while several polling stations closed earlier than scheduled.

Ferries to a remote island in the west were cancelled due to high waves, forcing election officials to suspend the counting of votes there.

On Saturday voters on remote southern islands in the path of the storm had cast their ballots early, heeding a call from Abe.

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