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On the street after “Bart”

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-10-01

Super Typhoon Bart finally decided to let the small Pacific island of Okinawa alone after blowing hard over it for more than 48 hours. It then headed towards mainland Japan, where it caused havoc in the Kyushu Prefecture, and caused panic as it continued making a hazardous journey up North.

On Okinawa, most of the inhabitants had to lock themselves indoors for more than 24 hours. At the end of the storm, many hurried out into the streets to see how bad Bart's rage had been. At 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 23rd, more than three hours after the official clearance had been given by the Okinawa Weather Observatory, the wind was still blowing hard and there was little traffic.

On Route 6 in Yomitan Village, there was no traffic light at certain intersections. At the junction right in front of the US Army's Torii Station, only pedestrians could manage their way through safely, as the lights meant to direct vehicular traffic had been twisted angrily onto one side.

Most traffic signals on the very busy Highway 58 had also been tossed around like rag dolls. The notorious Mr. Bart probably hit them one by one as he was moving northward, acting like those legendary mischievious boys who raomed around hitting mailboxes with baseball bats in old American movies.

As time went on, the traffic doubled and cars started to form lines among the ripped tree branches and pieces of broken signs which had been tossed around like paper. The damage caused by Okinawa's most powerful typhoon in 42 years was visible everywhere. However, people seemed eager to get bak to their normal activities. Small clusters of cars could be seen at the Laundromats. The parking lots of the just-back-in-business supermarkets started filling with shoppers.

In some parts of the Chatan neighbourhood, the electrical blackout caused by the typhoon was still affecting many of the residents. In a well-known 24-hour convenience store, there was only dim light provided by a small power generator, and most of the chilled beverages, deserts, and bentos (or lunch boxes) had been removed from the shelves.

“We've had a blackout since around 11 o'clock last night,” a salesman said. “These refrigerated items are no longer good, so we have to get rid all of them. We also have to fix the ceiling, too."

On the floor, a big puddle remained. The busy salespeople and customers all walked around carefully on the slippery floor.

"People at the head office are probably tearing their hair out right now. We’ve never experienced anything like this before (since the shop's opening)," a salesperson said, with a resigned sigh. She looked down, with a sad expression, at the spoiled goods sitting in a plastic basket on the floor.

The most powerful typhoon of the year and also the third biggest since the end of the Battle of Okinawa, had, like the war itself, left huge scars on the island. More than 100,000 households throughout the island experienced blackouts and the water supply was cut until Monday in southern parts of the island.

Bart may be gone, but memories of him shall linger around Okinawa for a long time to come.

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