TOKYO — A powerful typhoon blasted across Japan on Wednesday, killing 18 people, causing deadly mudslides and flash floods and prompting thousands to flee their homes, officials said. At least 13 people were missing.
Typhoon Tokage made landfall on Japan's main islands early Wednesday and — though it was downgraded by the evening to a tropical storm — was was proving to be one of the deadliest storms of the season.
Television footage showed powerful winds uprooting a whole tree, flash floods submerging cars to their windows and entire hillsides crumbling away in landslides across southern and central Japan.
Tokage — the Japanese word for lizard — swirled up the length of Japan's main island of Honshu and by the evening was closing in on central Nagano prefecture (state), about 112 miles northwest of Tokyo, with sustained winds of 56 miles per hour, the Meteorological Agency said.
It was expected to travel across the capital and along Japan's Pacific Coast before heading out to sea Thursday.
Prefectures in the southwest were hard hit, with nearly 16 inches of rain in areas and forecasters' warnings of waves of up to 30 feet hitting southern coastlines. Parts of the south, including Miyazaki prefecture on the island of Kyushu, were virtually shut down as public schools closed and local bus, train and air transport came to a halt, according to prefectural spokesman Takashi Arimura.
The powerful storm caused more than 927 flight cancellations, left 265,000 households without power and forced at least 9,900 people to evacuate, public broadcaster NHK said.
On the southwestern island of Shikoku, massive waves slammed into a coastal home in Kochi prefecture, killing a family of three, while a 68-year-old fisherman was swept away and drowned after trying to dock his boat, said prefectural spokesman Masatoshi Iwamoto.
In nearby Ehime prefecture, two people were buried in separate landslides and died after being taken to hospitals. A 61-year-old man also died after being blown off his roof while doing repairs, said police spokesman Keizo Shiraishi.
Elsewhere, the National Police Agency recorded at least 11 other fatalities, including a 40-year-old man swept off the top of a building by strong winds and two other bodies from a mudslide and a swollen river.
Thirteen others remained missing, including two in landslides and another two who police suspect were swept away in high waves in Chiba prefecture next to Tokyo.
Another 150 people were injured, police said.
Several Japanese oil refiners were forced to halt sea deliveries of oil products from their refineries in western Japan due to heavy rain and strong winds. The suspension was unlikely to affect domestic supply because the oil refiners have sufficient stocks of refined products to cover emergencies such as typhoons and earthquakes.
Tokage was the record eighth typhoon to hit Japan this year. Earlier this month, Typhoon Ma-on killed six people in Japan after swiping the country's Pacific coast. A week before that, Typhoon Meari killed 22.
This year's typhoons have far outstripped the previous post-World War II record of six, set in 1990.