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Deadly Typhoon Neoguri hits Japan

At least one man dead and 500,000 urged to evacuate amid torrential rains

At least one person has died, more than 500,000 people were urged to evacuate and hundreds of flights were canceled in Japan as a strong typhoon brought torrential rain and high winds to its southwestern islands.

Typhoon Neoguri faded from its original status as a super typhoon but remained intense, with gusts of more than 155 mph. The Okinawan government said 17 people were injured.

The storm was weakening early Wednesday, but forecasters said its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage. Japan is relatively well prepared for typhoons, but torrential rains could cause greater damage if the typhoon moves across the Japanese archipelago as expected on Thursday or Friday.

The storm was at its most powerful when passing Okinawa, but the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) warned of heavy rains and potential flooding in Kyushu, the westernmost of Japan's main islands, as well as heavy rain in the rest of the nation as the storm turns east later in the week.

"People must take the utmost caution," Keiji Furuya, state minister in charge of disaster management, told a news conference.

One man died after his boat was swamped by high waves, NHK national television said. Several people suffered minor injuries from falls.

Local airports were closed and hundreds of thousands were advised to evacuate their homes, though most stayed put, taking refuge from the destructive winds, waves up to 14 meters (46 feet) high and storm surges that were set to intensify as the storm passed the main island of Okinawa in the evening and headed north toward Kyushu. Almost 100,000 homes remained without electricity late Tuesday.

There are no nuclear plants on Okinawa, but there are two on Kyushu, which lies in the area through which the typhoon is likely to pass after hitting Okinawa. There is another on Shikoku island, which borders Kyushu and could also be affected.

All are shut down per national policy. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, is on the other side of the country.

The Fukushima plant, which has seen several public safety scares since its initial meltdown after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, is on the other end of the country and is expected to only see rain from the typhoon.

More than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan are based in Okinawa, the location of several bases, including Kadena Air Base, the biggest U.S. air base in Asia. An advisory on the Kadena base’s website said all outdoor activity was prohibited.

Around two to four typhoons make landfall in Japan each year, but they are unusual in July.

Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

The Philippines, which suffered the strongest typhoon to ever hit land when Haiyan struck in November, was spared the ferocious winds of Neoguri. The storm did not make landfall and was closest to the country Monday when it was about 300 miles east of the northernmost province of Batanes before it started to blow away toward southern Japan.

The typhoon did intensify the Philippines' southwest monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western provinces without causing any major damage.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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