Typhoon Vongfong slams into Japan, hundreds of flights cancelled

High waves batter a breakwater at a port of Kawaminami town in Miyazaki prefecture, Japan's southern island of Kyushu on Oct 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
High waves batter a breakwater at a port of Kawaminami town in Miyazaki prefecture, Japan's southern island of Kyushu on Oct 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
High waves surge toward a port of Kawaminami town in Miyazaki prefecture, Japan's southern island of Kyushu on Oct 13, 2014, while fishing boats evacuate in the port. Typhoon Vongfong hit Japan's southern island Kyushu earlier on Monday and was expected to bear down on the main island Honshu later in the day, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights, Japan's NHK broadcaster said. -- PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (AFP) - Powerful typhoon Vongfong barrelled into Japan's main islands Monday, with at least one person missing and dozens injured while more than 550 flights were grounded, officials and local media said.

Winds of up to 180km per hour whipped ashore as the typhoon made landfall at Makurazaki on Kyushu island Monday morning, the meteorological agency said.

The season's 19th typhoon, which had already struck Japan's southwestern island chain of Okinawa over the weekend, was located in Kochi prefecture Monday afternoon and still packing strong winds and heavy rain, the agency said.

It is forecast to churn northeast through the Japanese archipelago at a speed of 30km per hour, the agency said, adding that it may reach the Kanto region - which includes Tokyo - late Monday or early Tuesday.

"It is necessary to be on strict alert against gusts and high waves as winds can blow powerfully even in areas far from the centre of the typhoon," Hiroshi Sasaki, the agency's chief meteorologist, told a news conference.

"Please do not approach dangerous areas such as swollen rivers or seashore," Sasaki said. "Please secure your safety before winds and rain strengthen."

Television footage showed the roof and walls of a house ripped off by gusts in Makurazaki, while huge waves were smashing into breakwaters.

Strong winds also destroyed concrete block walls while muddy streams were roaring along a rain-swollen river in other areas of Kyushu.

NHK said at least 68 people had been injured in typhoon-related accidents so far, a figure which included the 23 hurt as the monster storm pounded the southern Okinawa islands.

Local authorities issued evacuation advisories to as many as 820,000 residents mainly in southwestern Japan Monday morning, NHK said.

At Shizuoka in central Japan three Chinese people were swept away by high waves triggered by the typhoon on Sunday afternoon as they were fishing on the coast, a local police spokesman said.

"Two of them were rescued safely but the remaining one aged 26 is still missing," the spokesman said.

The weather agency warned that landslides, floods, high waves and heavy rains could hit a large swathe of the archipelago, where a relatively wet summer brought numerous landslides - including in Hiroshima where more than 70 people died.

The typhoon also paralysed traffic, stranding tens of thousands of people travelling around the country at the end of a three-day national holiday.

Japanese airlines reportedly cancelled at least 559 flights, while West Japan Railway said it planned to suspend all local services in the western region of Kansai later in the day.

Mitsubishi Motors decided to halt part of its operations at four plants in western and central Japan "in order to secure employees' safety".

The typhoon came just a week after another strong tropical cyclone whipped through the country, leaving 11 people dead or missing.

Due to the latest storm, the search was suspended for the bodies of at least seven hikers believed to be lying on the still-smouldering Mount Ontake, from where 56 bodies have already been retrieved.

The volcano was packed with walkers when it burst angrily to life on September 27, with many there to witness the spectacular autumn foliage.

The eruption was Japan's deadliest in almost 90 years. Hundreds of troops, firefighters and police have joined a search made treacherous by the gases still rising from the peak, as well as a knee-deep layer of sticky ash.

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