Typhoon leaves major airport closed and destruction in Japan
TOKYO (AP) — One of Japan's busiest airports remained closed indefinitely, a day after the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years flooded a runway, toppled huge cranes, flipped cars on their side, damaged historic shrines and caused at least 11 deaths as it swept across part of Japan's main island.
Typhoon Jebi came ashore with sustained winds of 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, cutting a path of destruction in and around Osaka and nearby cities that bore the brunt of the storm.
A large commercial ship was washed onto a breakwater, and shipping containers were left floating in the sea. In Kyoto, the former imperial capital and a popular tourist destination, wooden shrine buildings and tall orange-red entrance gates were knocked down. Soaring trees fell at a shrine in Nara, another historic city.
More than 400,000 households in western and central Japan remained without power Wednesday, and electric utilities warned that it would take time to bring everyone back on line. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at least 11 people had been confirmed dead and 470 people were injured.
Some 3,000 airline passengers who had to spend the night at the offshore Kansai airport were able to leave on boats and buses under sunny skies. They were stranded after a tanker unmoored by the storm's pounding waves and wind slammed into a bridge that is the airport's only link to the mainland.
Officials could not say when the airport, a gateway for Asian tourists visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, would reopen. "Right now, we cannot say for certain when we can reopen," said Hiroshi Nishio, an executive at the Kansai Airport. "Equipment has been flooded and inspection takes time."
The closure of the main airport serving one of Japan's major business and commercial areas triggered concern about the possible impact on tourism and the economy.
"If Kansai Airport is unusable for a long time, it would have a certain impact on the regional economy as well as the Japanese economy overall, as the airport is a key trading hub for companies," MUFG Bank analyst Akira Yoshimura told NHK public television.
Flooding at the airport had largely subsided Wednesday but flight operations equipment needed to be assessed for damage, as did the crushed part of the bridge. The airport was built on artificial islands in Osaka Bay.
Passengers stranded overnight appeared relieved but exhausted after an uneasy night in the dark.
Hideko Senoo, a 51-year-old homemaker planning a family trip to India, said the terminal was hot and dark after losing power, and food at convenience stores was sold out.
"We could not use vending machines or access the wireless network to get information," she told Japan's Kyodo News service.
Miki Yamada, a 25-year-old office worker planning a trip to Thailand with her friend, told Kyodo she spent the night at an airport cafeteria. "It was a rather scary night, as we were so isolated," she said.
The Universal Studios Japan theme park in Osaka was closed for a second day Wednesday but said it would reopen Thursday.
Factories in the region, including automaker Daihatsu Motor Co., electronics giant Panasonic and beverage maker Kirin Co., were expected to resume operations Wednesday after suspending production during the typhoon, Kyodo said.
The deaths included a man in his 70s who was blown to the ground from his apartment in Osaka prefecture. Police said at least five others died elsewhere in the prefecture after being hit by flying objects or falling from their apartments. In nearby Shiga prefecture, a 71-year-old man died when a storage building collapsed on him, and a man in his 70s died after falling from a roof in Mie, officials said.
In Nishinomiya in Hyogo prefecture, about 100 cars at a seaside dealership burned after their electrical systems were shorted out by sea water, fire officials and news reports said.