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Typhoon Etau hobbles preparations for Obon festival

Date Posted: 2003-08-15

Typhoon Etau churned past Okinawa with little physical damage last week, but wreaked havoc on local families’ preparations for the Obon holidays. As the typhoon rolled in late Wednesday and lashed out on Thursday and Friday, its timing could not have been worse, being only two days before this year’s Obon running Sunday through Tuesday. Housewives were unable to shop for the special foods and accessories used during the religious season, and Etau disrupted the supply of vegetables, fruit and fish, as no ships could arrive during the typhoon.

Obon is also the season that people give “ochugen” gifts to friends, relatives and business acquaintances, and shops usually prepare for the occasion by setting up special “ochugen corners.” This time most goods intended for the purpose did not arrive.

The lack of sale goods even forced some shops to close. “It is very unusual to see shops close doors just before Obon. I have never seen it before,” a middle-aged housewife shopping at Heiwa Dori arcade in Naha said.

Thunderstorms that brought torrential rains to the middle part of the island over the weekend right after the typhoon caused severe red soil pollution in the waters off Hamagawa and Mihama. According to Defense Facilities Administration Bureau, the flow of red soil into the ocean was worse than usual because of landscaping and other construction work on Kadena Air Base and the northern return-part of Camp Lester on both sides of Route 23. The same area was the origin of red soil pollution also last year, and repairs done at that time proved to be insufficient to prevent the flow occurring again.

Damage was minimal on Okinawa, with reports of some fallen trees and occasional power outages, and only four reported slight injuries. On the mainland, Typhoon Etau caused the deaths of 10 people, left another 10 missing and 1,000 homes flooded.

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