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Asia Typhoon Grounds Flights, Shuts Oil Refinery in Okinawa

Typhoon Bolaven hammered into Japan’s southernmost islands, forcing flight cancellations, the closing of an oil refinery and one of the highest weather alerts at the Kadena U.S. military base on Okinawa.

As much as 50 millimeters (2 inches) of rain per hour could fall in parts of Okinawa and Kyushu, Japan’s weather agency said. Landslide and high wave warnings were issued as wind gusts reached 213 kph. Video by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK showed tree limbs being snapped in Naha, Okinawa’s capital.

“My yard is getting filled with water,” Sayaka Higa said by phone, adding the storm forced her to stay home from her job as a spokeswoman at the U.S. military’s Kadena Air Base about 18 kilometers north of Naha.

Japan Airlines Co. canceled 125 domestic flights to Okinawa and surrounding islands, the carrier said on its website. Some international flights are also affected. All Nippon Airways Co. also canceled flights to the region and advised passengers to check with the airline.

Bolaven was about 410 kilometers (255 miles) north-northwest of Naha, a city of 321,000, at 2:45 p.m. local time, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. It had sustained winds of 148 kilometers per hour (92 mph), making it a Category 1 storm, the weakest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Refinery Shuts

Nansei Sekiyu KK halted refining and shipping operations at its 100,000 barrel-a-day Nishihara plant in Okinawa, the company said in an e-mail today.

Refining operations and marine shipping were halted on Aug. 25, while truck terminal operations were halted yesterday, the company said.

About 8,900 homes were without power due to storm damage as of 2 p.m., Tomohiro Shimono, an Okinawa Electric Power Co. spokesman, said in a phone interview. Six people in the prefecture had sustained minor injuries, NHK reported on its website, citing fire department officials.

The Kadena Air Base was under Storm Watch alert as of 4 p.m., indicating that the typhoon was moving away but the base still felt some effects, according to its website. Earlier in the day, the base had been placed on its highest-level Typhoon Condition-1 Emergency alert, prohibiting all outside activities.

The storm is forecast to move northwest toward the Korean peninsula today and may pass to the west of Seoul as a Category 1 storm tomorrow, the U.S. Joint Typhoon Warning Center said on its website.

Meteorologists in the northeast Chinese province of Liaoning, where the storm is expected to make landfall tomorrow, had issued a yellow alert, the second-highest level in the country’s four-tier color-coded weather warning system, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said today.

Bolaven is the name for a plateau in Laos, according to the Hong Kong Observatory, which lists names assigned to storms in the northwest Pacific.

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