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Seven killed, 15 missing as fierce typhoon pounds Tokyo

by ace

TOKYO – Seven people died and 15 disappeared after the most powerful typhoon that struck Japan in decades paralyzed Tokyo, flooding rivers and leaving nearly half a million homes without power, public broadcaster NHK reported on Sunday.

Authorities raised rain and flood warnings for the Kanto region around Tokyo before dawn when the typhoon stormed the northeastern coast of Japan. Warnings for areas north of the capital began to be lifted on Sunday morning.

Typhoon Hagibis is due to go out to sea on Sunday evening after moving on the northern island of Hokkaido.

Seven people were killed in areas such as Chiba, Gunma, Kanagawa and Fukushima prefectures around Tokyo, NHK said. Among them was a 60-year-old man who was found in a flooded apartment in Kawasaki, according to the newspaper. Fifteen people were also missing on Sunday, the newspaper reported.

Millions of people were previously warned to evacuate.

About 425,000 homes were without power, the government said, reliving fears of a repeat of the power outages suffered for weeks after another typhoon hit eastern Tokyo last month.

In Fukushima, north of the capital, Tokyo Electric Power Co reported erratic readings of sensors that monitor water at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant at night. The plant was paralyzed by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Heavy rains caused rivers to flood their banks in parts of Fukushima and Nagano prefectures, drowning houses and paddy fields and forcing some people to climb onto their roofs for safety.

Homes along the Chikuma River in Nagano were almost under water and at least one person was rescued from the roof of a house by helicopter, NHK said. Part of a road was swept away by the floods.

Authorities issued evacuation warnings and orders to more than 6 million people across Japan, with the storm causing the heaviest rains and winds in years. About 100 injuries have been reported so far, the NHK said.

The storm, which the government said was the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958, brought record rainfall in many areas, including the popular tourist town of Hakone, which was hit by 37 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Hagibis, meaning "speed" in the Philippine tagal, arrived on the main island of Honshu, Japan, on Saturday night. A 5.7 magnitude earthquake shook Tokyo soon after.

Tokyo's main shinkansen bullet trains will start on time on Sunday, NHK said, while Tokyo's subway system was also operating.

One expert, Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, director of the Japan Riverfront Research Center, had previously told Reuters that more flooding could occur as several neighboring prefectures began releasing water from the dams, allowing it to flow downstream.

About 1.5 million people in Tokyo live below sea level.

Japan's Meteorological Agency issued the highest alert level for 12 prefectures, warning of the potential for unique rains in decades, but raised them early on Sunday.

Last month, another heavy storm, Typhoon Faxai, destroyed or damaged 30,000 homes in Chiba, east of Tokyo, and caused extensive power outages.

The capital's main airports, Haneda and Narita, prevented flights from landing, and connecting trains were suspended, forcing more than 1,000 flights to be canceled.

The Namibia-Canada Rugby World Cup match in Kamaishi on Sunday has been canceled, although the crucial Japan-Scotland match is set to go ahead. Two games were canceled on Saturday.

The organizers of the Formula 1 Grand Prix also canceled all Saturday training and qualifying sessions.

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