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Typhoon Shanshan whips Ishigaki Island

Date Posted: 2006-09-22

Typhoon Shanshan ripped across southern Okinawa Prefecture Saturday, tearing up parts of Ishigaki Island with its nearly 140 mile per hour winds.

The typhoon’s midday arrival as it streaked northward killed power to thousands of homes, triggered mudslides and capsized 11 fishing boats. It caused only minor injuries as it traveled across the Miyako and Yaeyama Island groups, then swerved to the northwest, avoiding most of Okinawa’s main island.

Only the northwest coast at Motobu was hit by the high waves, which damaged the port terminal and swept 30 cargo containers out to sea. In Okinawa City, one building had a wall collapse. The sixty injuries and 70 homes damaged were said to be caused by flying glass and fingers caught in doors.

The worst winds were reported on Iriomote Island, with gusts of more than 155mph. Weather observers say the typhoon winds were the worst ever recorded. On Ishigaki Island, telephones went dead and more than 25,000 homes lost power. The Okinawa Power Company says it sent 200 people to Ishigaki Island and Miyakojima City to make repairs. The process was slow, because 182 utility poles were broken by the storm, requiring the power company to bring in 39 specialized ladder trucks to make the repairs.

Naha International Airport shut down many operations during Typhoon Shanshan, leaving thousands stranded as more than one hundred flights were canceled. Japan Air Lines, Japan Transocean Air, Ryukyu Air Commuter Service and All Nippon Airways cancelled more than 100 flights, stranding 7,883 passengers. U.S. military units were in a typhoon lockdown much of Saturday, and into Sunday, while officials reported military aircraft being shifted away from the islands for safety.

Kyushu didn’t fare so well, with ten fatalities reported from the typhoon. Winds had dropped to sustained 110mph levels, but disaster management officials say it still was a powerful typhoon.

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