Weather and Natural Disasters

Typhoon Phanfone Lashes Tokyo With Heavy Rains, 100 MPH Winds

TOKYO - A powerful typhoon that washed four American airmen in Okinawa out to sea slammed central Japan on Monday, forcing the cancellation of more than 600 flights.

Phanfone had earlier been downgraded from a super-typhoon to a Category One shadow of its former self but Japan's 18th typhoon of the season still packed a punch. Wind gusts of up to 100 mph and at least a foot and a half of rainfall meant that dozens of schools were closed as Phanfone barrelled its way through the capital of 13 million people.

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At least 21,000 homes lost power. In the low-lying areas west of Tokyo, whole towns were inundated. But just minutes after the eye of the storm had passed, blue skies appeared over Tokyo and heavy rains thinned into a light drizzle.

Passers-by with umbrellas struggle against strong winds and heavy rain caused by Typhoon Phanfone, in Tokyo October 6, 2014.
Issei Kato | Reuters

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Four U.S. airmen were swept out to sea Sunday while posing for photos in front of heavy, breaking waves off Okinawa. One crawled to safety, one died and two others were missing, presumed dead. The Air Force said the search for the missing airmen had been interrupted by rough seas.

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Okinawa is home to about half of the roughly 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan. A surfer went missing off the coast of Fujisawa, a beach suburb of Tokyo, the coast guard said. Phanfone also lashed the F1 Japanese Grand Prix, which went ahead but saw a crash in which French driver Jules Bianchi suffered a serious head injury that required emergency surgery. Meanwhile, Typhoon Vongfong was lashing the Mariana islands in the Pacific and was heading for Japan later this week.