Typhoon Roke Weakens Over Japan as Wind, Floods Kill Three

Typhoon Roke to Pass Tokyo, JAL Cancels 115 Flights
Typhoon Roke is seen moving over Japan in this infrared satellite image acquired on the morning of Sept. 21. Source: Japan Meteorological Agency via Bloomberg

Typhoon Roke made landfall in central Japan, causing flooding and disrupting transport links as it weakened on a path toward the stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima. At least three people were reported killed.

Roke was over Kofu city, 100 kilometers (64 miles) east of Tokyo, at 5 p.m. local time. It was moving northeast at 50 kilometers per hour, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The storm’s winds are expected to weaken to 120 kph from 148 kph as it approaches Fukushima today as a Category 1 hurricane, the weakest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

Japan’s weather agency issued warnings for landslides and flooding throughout the main island of Honshu, with high waves in coastal areas. Public broadcaster NHK showed footage of fallen trees, damaged buildings and flooding across central Japan, where rainfall exceeded 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) per hour. Roke comes three weeks after typhoon Talas killed 67 people, the nation’s deadliest storm in seven years.

“We need to be on alert for landslides and swelling rivers,” Mamoru Akita, an information officer at the Shizuoka Meteorological Observatory, said by telephone. “The wind and rain is going to get stronger.”

Six Dead

One person died in Nagoya after falling from the third floor of a building in strong winds, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said in a statement. One man died in Saga prefecture as he was checking the mooring on a fishing boat, while another drowned in a swollen river in Ehime prefecture, the agency said. Kyodo News Agency reported 6 people have died.

About 1.1 million people in Aichi, Gifu and other prefectures in central Japan were ordered or advised to leave their homes as of 9 a.m. today, national broadcaster NHK said on its website. Nagoya, the capital of Aichi prefecture 260 kilometers west of Tokyo, lifted evacuation orders at 11:15 a.m., according to the city’s website.

Japan Airlines Co. canceled 112 domestic flights, the carrier said in a faxed statement. All Nippon Airways Co. said it canceled 116 domestic flights and two international flights while Skymark Airlines Inc., Japan’s biggest discount carrier, said it had 43 cancellations.

Central Japan Railway Co. suspended bullet train services linking Tokyo and Osaka and local services on other lines, the operator said on its website. East Japan Railway Co. partially suspended bullet train services linking Tokyo with the northern part of Honshu. Some local lines around Tokyo were also closed.

Power Cuts

Tokyo Electric Power Co., Japan’s largest utility whose nuclear plant was crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in March, said power was cut to 19,610 homes. Chubu Electric Power Co. said 7,950 homes were without power and Kansai Electric Power Co., which serves the industrial region around Osaka, said 8,390 homes were without electricity.

“Several works and operations at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi were affected due to wind and heavy rain brought by the typhoon,” Takeo Iwamoto, a spokesman at the utility, said by phone today. “We halted sea-water sampling, sea-water treatment and works to build water shields.”

Toyota Motor Corp. suspended today’s afternoon shift at 11 factories in Aichi prefecture due to the typhoon, Shiori Hashimoto, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman said by phone. Honda Motor Co. said it will change working hours at its Hamamatsu factory in central Japan for safety reasons.

Factories Operating

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are operating factories in the region as normal and don’t plan to shut them, Mitsubishi spokeswoman Namie Koketsu and Suzuki spokesman Ei Mochizuki said today.

JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. stopped berthing operations at six refineries across the country, said a spokeswoman who declined to be identified, citing company policy. Refining operations and truck shipments are operating as usual, she said.

Professional baseball games were canceled in Tokyo, including between the league-leading Tokyo Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp. Games in Saitama and Sendai north of the capital were also called off, according to team websites. A road in central Tokyo was blocked by a fallen tree in the busy district of Shibuya, according to footage on NHK.

As much as 400 millimeters of rain has fallen in parts of the country today, according to the weather agency.

Weaken Further

Roke is forecast to weaken further as it moves northeast past the Greater Tokyo area. It may cross Tokyo Electric’s Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant after 9 p.m., according to the weather agency. Roke is expected to weaken into a tropical storm as it tracks the eastern coast of Japan’s northern Tohoku region.

The storm may hinder work to control leakage of water into the basements of the Dai-Ichi reactor buildings, which contained 102 million liters of radioactive water as of Sept. 13, according to Tokyo Electric estimates.

“Water level at the basement floors of the number 1 to 3 reactor buildings were at Onahama point plus between 2,825 and 2,948 millimeters as of 11 a.m. We expect the water level may rise as much as 140 millimeters tonight, but this will not bring it to a dangerous level,” he said.

Much of Tokyo Electric’s work in Fukushima since July has focused on decontaminating highly radiated cooling water that ran off into basements and trenches at the damaged reactors.

In addition, as much as 500 tons, or 500,000 liters, of underground water is leaking into Dai-Ichi buildings every day through cracks in walls and trenches, Tokyo Electric spokesman Hajime Motojuku said yesterday.

Injecting Water

The utility has been injecting water into Dai-Ichi’s reactors since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems, causing the worst nuclear accident in 25 years. Reactors need to be cooled below 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) to shut down the plant.

Levels of contaminated water in Dai-Ichi basements have fallen more than 14 percent in the last month as Tepco sped up water decontamination by adding a system supplied by Toshiba Corp. and Shaw Group Inc.

Japan is regularly hit by cyclones during the northern hemisphere’s summer. Typhoon Talas killed 67 people and left 26 missing when it dumped as much as 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) of rain in central Japan earlier this month. Talas was the deadliest storm since 2004, when Typhoon Tokage left 95 people dead.