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Thunderstorm, twisters hit region

Date Posted: 1998-02-21

Late Monday evening and early Tuesday morning, a large storm system crossed over Okinawa, causing thunder and lightning to hit the island. On Kume Island, a tornado wreaked havoc, blowing roof tiles off homes, breaking windows, falling utility poles and cutting telephone lines.

Local residents described the storm, saying "the twister came with a roar stronger than a typhoon’s." People woke up bewildered and one woman, 41, was hit in the eyes with shards of flying glass from a broken window. "I was sleeping in peace when suddenly I woke up in pain, with pain in my eyes. I do not know what happened," she said after arriving at a local hospital.

In Yonashiro Town, a landslide caused by torrential rains damaged a road, loose objects and roofs were blown away, and trees and sugarcane fields were uprooted, scattering debris across yards and streets. A community chairman from the town said, "I have lived here all my life and have yet to see such a strong tornado."

On Sunday, another tornado occurred on Iriomote Island, southwest of Okinawa.

A very strong twister hit the island while a marathon and other festivities were being held. Twelve hundred people were in attendance at the time. Fifteen tents had been set up to shelter the participants from the rain and when the twister hit, the tents collapsed. Fifteen people were treated at a local hospital, but there were no serious injuries reported.

In Okinawa, local sugar mills lost their yearly sugarcane stockpiles after winds from the storms scattered the cane over yards and nearby roads. Empty bottles and boxes left near beer warehouses were blown onto the streets, posing a danger to drivers. No traffic accidents were reported and it seems the only injuries occurred on Kume and Iriomote Island. According to officials at Okinawa Electric Power, 40 homes were without electricity Monday night.

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