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Typhoon batters Tokyo, heads for crippled nuclear plant

A million told to evacuate as power lines down, rivers swell, winds rattle homes and reactor continues to leak.

Photo of March tsunami devastation in Japan courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

There was grim news Wednesday for Japan, rocked in March by a powerful earthquake and tsunami. Another typhoon blew through Tokyo early in the day, heading for the batterned northern coast and its still-damaged nuclear plant.

The Canadian Press has the story:

TOKYO -- A powerful typhoon buffeted Tokyo with strong winds and rain Wednesday, halting trains and stranding tens of thousands of commuters as it barrelled toward the tsunami-ravaged northeastern coast with its crippled nuclear plant.

Police and local media reported that six people were dead or missing after being swept away by rivers swollen with rains from Typhoon Roke. Nearly 260,000 households in central Japan were without electricity, and authorities called for more than a million people to be evacuated in central and eastern Japan.

The storm, packing sustained winds of up to 144 kph, made landfall in the afternoon near the city of Hamamatsu, about 200 kilometres west of Tokyo. The centre of the fast-moving storm was passing just north of the capital early Wednesday evening and was expected to head toward the northeastern region of Tohoku devastated by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.

With commuter trains in the capital suspended, tens of thousands of commuters trying to rush home were stuck at stations across the sprawling city. Fire department officials reported three people were injured in Tokyo. In the trendy shopping district of Shibuya, winds knocked over a tree onto a sidewalk, but no one was hurt.

Television footage showed pedestrians struggling to walk straight in powerful winds that made umbrellas useless.

Typhoon Roke's projected course was to take it near the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, where a small amount of radiation is still leaking after three of its reactors melted down when the tsunami cut off power to the plant and its back-up generators.

Takeo Iwamoto, spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates the plant, said the cooling system for the reactors, crucial to keeping them under control, will not be endangered by the typhoon.

He said some construction work around the plant was cancelled and utmost efforts were under way to prevent leaks of radioactive water and other material from the typhoon.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said just over one million people have been ordered or advised to evacuate across the country due to fear of flooding or mudslides triggered by the typhoon.

The city of Nagoya temporarily called off an evacuation warning for 880,000 people when swelling in a major river subsided, but officials said the warning could be reissued if conditions warranted.

Heavy rains caused floods and road damage in dozens of locations in Nagoya and several other cities, the Aichi prefectural (state) government said. Parts of Japan's central city of Nagoya, about 270 kilometres west of Tokyo, were flooded near swollen rivers where rescue workers helped residents evacuate in rubber boats.

Police in nearby Gifu prefecture said a 9-year-old boy and an 84-year-old man were missing after apparently falling into swollen rivers.

More than 200 domestic flights were cancelled and some bullet train services were suspended.

Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's No. 1 automaker, which is headquartered in Toyota city in Aichi, was shutting plants as a precaution.

Machinery maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries told workers to stay home at its five plants and an office in the Nagoya area, company spokesman Hideo Ikuno said.

Nissan Motor Co. spokesman Chris Keeffe said workers at its Yokohama headquarters and nearby technical facilities were being told to go home early for safety reasons, and two plants were not operating.

A typhoon that slammed Japan earlier this month left about 90 people dead or missing.

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