At least one dead as typhoon lashes Japan, heading for Tokyo

At least one dead as typhoon lashes Japan, heading for Tokyo

TOKYO - Hundreds of flights were cancelled and thousands of people advised to evacuate as a powerful typhoon lashed Japan on Monday with heavy rains and high winds, leaving at least one person dead as it headed towards Tokyo.

Three US servicemen were swept away by high waves in the southwestern island of Okinawa on Sunday as Typhoon Phanfone, which earlier had the status of super typhoon, neared Japan. One was later found dead and the other two are missing.

Heavy rains forced the cancellation of a search for victims of Mount Ontake, with 12 people still missing after an eruption last week killed at least 51. A score of households in the foothills of the peak were evacuated out of concerns that heavy rains could cause mudslides as ash is washed downstream.

Phanfone made landfall near the central city of Hamamatsu on Monday morning, prompting Honda to halt production at its Hamamatsu and Suzuka plants, while Nissan said it was halting production at its Oppama plant. Toyota said on Sunday that it would halt production at 12 plants.

The storm had sustained winds of 129 kph (80 mph) with gusts of up to 185 kph (115 mph) and was moving northeast at 45 kph as of 8:00 a.m. (2300 GMT), Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Some parts of eastern Japan were expected to be hit with 8 cm (3 inches) of rain an hour, with total accumulations of 20 cm (8 inches) before the storm sweeps out to sea.

More than 50,000 households throughout eastern Japan were advised to evacuate due to fears of flooding as rivers threatened to burst their banks. Some areas were forecast to see a month's worth of rain before the storm ended.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled and service on the Shinkansen bullet train was suspended west of Tokyo. Commuter train services were delayed or suspended in the capital, affecting millions of commuters.

Heavy rain delayed the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday, which eventually saw two starts behind the safety car and ended before the full distance due to a crash. Britain's Lewis Hamilton won the race.

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