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Fukushima nuclear plant escapes typhoon damage

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-09-21

Typhoon Roke killed six people on Wednesday when it struck northeastern Japan, disrupting public transport and battering the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant although the plant escaped further damage, its operators said.

AFP - A powerful typhoon smashed into Japan on Wednesday churning through the stricken Fukushima nuclear power station but failed to damage the already battered plant, its operators said.

The typhoon, which was packing winds of up to 180 kilometres (111 miles) per hour, has killed at least six people and a million were initially warned to leave their homes over fears torrential rains could cause widespread flooding.

At around 10:00pm (1300 GMT) Typhoon Roke was centred 280 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, moving through the area that was devastated by a record earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that sparked nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled, ferry and rail services were suspended and roads closed as the country prepared for the full impact of the storm.

Roke comes less than a month after another vicious typhoon barrelled through Japan, killing around 100 people in one of the deadliest storms the country has seen in decades and heaping more misery on the disaster-weary nation.

By late Wednesday, the typhoon passed through the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where workers raced to protect buildings and reactors that are leaking radiation.

In a further demonstration of the forces of nature faced by Japan a 5.3-magnitude tremor struck near the Fukushima plant soon after the storm roared through, but there was no immediate report of damage following the jolt.

"We have not received any reports of abnormality or trouble following the typhoon and the latest quake," said Hajime Motojuku, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of the plant on the northeast coast.

"Our cooling system is also working normally, but we need to double-check tomorrow morning if there is actually no damage to outer walls and other parts of the facilities," Motojuku said.

As the storm hurtled towards the plant, operations on the ground and at sea were suspended while workers relocated crane trucks and stretched tarpaulin to protect areas of buildings from rain.

Around 20,000 people are thought to have died along the coast when the March tsunami rolled in, wreaking billions of dollars of damage.

The nuclear plant was sent into meltdown after its cooling systems were swamped by the waves, sending radiation into the air, sea and food chain in the world's worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.

Six people have so far been found dead in central and western Japan in the latest calamity, NHK reported, while six others are missing.

The public broadcaster said 199 people had been injured as torrential rain battered some areas and caused flooding in others.

Prefectures across eastern Japan issued landslide warnings, telling people to stay away from areas at risk. A tornado warning was temporarily raised across the Tokyo area.

Many of the initial evacuation advisories were dropped by Wednesday lunchtime, but remained in force for around 200,000 people nationwide.

Auto giant Toyota temporarily shut 11 of its 15 Japanese plants, which lie in the path of the storm.

"The second (afternoon) shift is stopped. (It is) not resuming today," company spokesman Dion Corbert told AFP adding that production was expected to resume on Thursday.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries temporarily closed five of its aviation and engine plants in central Japan due to the storm, a company spokesman said.

"The rain and wind is raging out there and people on the street were staggering," Yoshinori Ito, a spokesman with Hamamatsu City, in the centre of the country, said by phone.

TV footage showed residents in places walking through streets knee-deep in water.

A number of expressways were closed and ferry services that ply routes between the many islands that make up Japan had been stopped. Around 450 flights were cancelled, grounding more than 45,000 passengers.

Central Japan Railway and East Japan Railway were suspending a number of services, including some bullet trains, but did not know how many passengers would be affected, officials said.

Date created : 2011-09-21

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