Typhoon washes 3 US airmen to sea in Japan


Typhoon washes 3 US airmen to sea in Japan

by: Mari Yamaguchi | .
The Associated Press | .
published: October 06, 2014

TOKYO (AP) - A powerful typhoon lashed southern Japan on Sunday, churning up high waves that washed three American airmen out to sea and killed at least one before taking aim at Tokyo.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, a separate typhoon whipped the Mariana Islands, including Guam, with high winds and heavy rain.

By late Sunday, Typhoon Phanfone was off the coast of Shikoku in southwestern Japan, with winds of up to 144 kilometers (90 miles) per hour after hitting the regions of Okinawa and Kyushu, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

One of the three airmen was found dead. The other two were missing, according to the Air Force and the Japanese coast guard.

They had been on Okinawa island's northern coast when they were overcome by the waves, according to Tsuguyoshi Miyagi of the coast guard's Okinawa branch.

The Air Force said the search for the missing airmen had been interrupted by rough seas. Their names were being withheld pending no tification of relatives.

Okinawa is home to about half of the roughly 50,000 American troops stationed in Japan.

Several people on Kyushu island were injured in the typhoon. The storm also grounded more than 100 flights Sunday and knocked out power to more than 9,500 Kyushu homes.

In Suzuka, in central Japan, a French driver was severely injured following an accident in the Japanese Grand Prix that had to be shortened because the heavy rain made conditions too dangerous. Formula One driver Jules Bianchi of the Marussia team went off the track at a turn and hit a recovery vehicle that was removing a car that had crashed earlier.

An unconscious Bianchi was taken to a nearby hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for a severe head injury. Race officials said he was in critical condition.

The storm triggered concern about possible landslides on the ash-covered volcano in central Japan that erupted Sept. 27 and killed at least 51 hikers. The se arch for a dozen people missing in the eruption was suspended Sunday because of rain from the approaching storm.

The meteorological agency predicted that up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) of rain could fall in central Japan by Monday morning.

In the Marianas, the eye of the typhoon skirted the small island of Rota. Power outages and minor flooding were reported in some areas on Monday morning as damage reports were starting to arrive.

Rota has about 2,500 residents and many buildings made of concrete.

The weather service canceled a flash-flood watch for the islands around 8:30 a.m. Monday, as the storm shifted farther west. Light to moderate rain was expected to continue for several hours, with occasional downpours, but major flooding wasn't expected, the agency said.

Typhoon Vongfong had maximum sustained winds estimated at 105 mph, said Roger Edson of the National Weather Service in Guam.

Winds on the islands of Guam, Tinian and Saipan wer e gusting to at least 55 mph, he said.

Residents on Guam heeded warnings about high winds and possible flooding by taking shelter at designated public schools. The island government and many businesses were expected to be closed Monday, and most flights were canceled.

Bordallo reported from Guam. Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, and Jim Armstrong in Suzuka, Japan, also contributed to this report.

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