SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) A powerful typhoon was bearing down on Japan’s largest city early Monday after killing at least one U.S. airman and leaving two others missing, officials said.
The fast-moving storm with winds up to 95 mph also halted recovery operations at the site of last month’s deadly volcano eruption, where 51 people were killed and at least 12 others are missing.
Three U.S. Air Force members were pulled into heavy surf Sunday while taking photos on the island of Okinawa, where some 25,000 American troops are based, Japan’s coast guard said. The U.S. Air Force confirmed that three airmen were washed out to sea and that one had died. It said the search for the other two was interrupted by rough seas.
Typhoon Phanfone was forecast to make landfall or closely pass Tokyo on Monday, threatening to disrupt commuters in this city of 13 million.
More than 550 flights were canceled for early Monday at Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports. Commuter lines were expected to run on abbreviated schedules, though Japan’s famed “bullet” trains were scheduled to operate as normal. Most schools, businesses and government offices in the Tokyo are likely to remain open.
Earlier Sunday, officials suspended search operations at Mount Ontake, in central Japan, site of the Sept. 27 volcano eruption, because of the fear of mudslides created by heavy rain mixed with up to 2 feet of ash on the ground.
Nearly 1,000 police officers, firefighters, soldiers and others have been working to locate and bring down victims from the 10,000-foot volcano, a popular hiking spot not far from Nagano, the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Several hundred hikers were believed to be near the peak when the volcano erupted. It was a sunny Saturday morning on the first weekend of the autumn foliage-viewing season. Hiking is a popular pastime in Japan, and Mount Ontake is regularly visited by beginner and experienced hikers. There had been no unusual seismic activity in the area beforehand.
Many of the hikers, ranging from youngsters to senior citizens, had settled down to lunch or were resting near a summit cabin when the peak suddenly erupted. Many were killed in a hailstorm of rocks and boulders, while others were overcome by poisonous fumes or were buried in ash.
It was the worst volcano disaster in Japan in nearly 100 years.
The eruption and search for victims has transfixed much of Japan. Some of the victims were able to call relatives on their cellphones before dying from their injuries, and others took dramatic photos and video that have since been posted online. The search for victims would continue as soon as conditions allow.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that Typhon Phanfone could bring as much as three to four inches of rain per hour in parts of eastern and northeastern Japan on Monday.