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Typhoon Man-Yi leaves three dead in its wake

Date Posted: 2007-07-20

The worst typhoon to strike Okinawa in four years, Typhoon Man-Yi, caused plenty of minor damage but kept its anger in check until reaching mainland Japan.

Man-Yi killed two people in Kagoshima Prefecture Saturday as the season's fourth typhoon moved north from Okinawa. A third person, a 79-year-old man, was found by police and rescue workers in Tokushima Prefecture. Officials say one man is still missing in Nagoya, and more than 70 were injured in central and western Japan.

The storm moved off into the Pacific late Sunday, but not before more than 40,000 were forced to evacuate as forecasters worried about strong winds, heavy rains and high waves. Hundreds of flights were cancelled over the weekend, with 274 on Sunday alone. Central Japan Railway shut down several of its lines, including the bullet trains, because of heavy rain, and lanes on the Tomei Expressway in Shizuoka Prefecture were closed for more than 14 hours.

Super Typhoon Man-Yi ripped into Okinawa early Friday morning, packing 105 mph (169kmph) winds that put military bases on the island into a lockdown lasting almost 18 hours. Weather officials say the storm was the strongest since Typhoon Etau hit Okinawa on August 6, 2003. Man-Yi dumped more than 10 inches of rain on Okinawa during its rampage. Still, the worst was avoided, as the heaviest sustained winds of 144mph (232kmph) were recorded as it passed 40 kilometers to the west of Okinawa. Gusts were recorded at 173mph (278kmph) at 9 a.m.

Debris was the primary damage on Okinawa, although high winds damaged 28 cars while flipping several. A total of 28 were reported injured on Okinawa, but only a few seriously. A man attempting to adjust his television antenna on his roof during the typhoon was blown off, falling six meters to the ground. He is listed in serious condition in a local hospital.

Power, water and telephone outages hit various points across Okinawa, including on military bases. Power failures caused water pumps to fail, causing power outages at Camps Foster and Lester, rendering water unusable until testing is complete. The military broadcast warnings about the water on the military’s AFN-TV.

NTT said telephone service to more than 3,200 customers was disrupted by the typhoon. NTT officials couldn’t predict when full service would be restored to all, but said late Tuesday well more than 2,000 customers have their telephone service back.

Fishing boats overturned or sunk at Itoman and Awase Port,s and local flooding was reported at a dozen locations across the island. Airlines canceled more than 313 flights to and from Okinawa, leaving more than 36,000 travelers stranded. Buses, the Okinawa Expressway and the Naha Monorail were shut down during the storm.

Agriculture suffered heavy damage, particularly in the Nakajin Village area, where watermelons are being grown in preparation for the upcoming Obon season. Officials say greenhouses essential to growing the fruit were destroyed, leaving the crop in doubt.

Watermelon requires protection from wind and small insects, both provided by greenhouses. A Nakajin Village official says 80 greenhouses were destroyed. Nakajin Village normally accounts for 95% of the watermelons sold on Okinawa, but a farmer lamented this week “We will only get about 10% of the crop that we would get in a normal year.”

Typhoons typically knock down branches, and occasionally trees, but Okinawa City residents are in shock over the loss of its favorite banyan tree. The 200-year-old tree located near the city’s new Music Town at Goya Intersection was uprooted during the storm. Measuring 10 meters high and 4 meters wide, its branches stretched 15 meters across the Community Hall’s yard.

Nobuo Oshiro, 58, and Youth People’s Representative Tsubasa Shimabukuro, 22, said the tree came crashing down about 9:30 a.m. on Friday. “Everybody thought it was a thunderstorm,” Shimabukuro said. “but it wasn’t thunder; it was the voice of the tree falling down.” The tree struck the Community Hall second floor stairs, its branches now shrouding the building.

“The other buildings and cars were lucky,” said Oshiro. “They didn’t get injuries, but now we’re going to bring a tree specialist in to see what to do next.” Oshiro wants the tree to survive, and hopes the tree’s roots can be resunk into the soil.

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