A typhoon has killed at least 17 people in Japan. Wipha packed gusts of up to 180 kilometers per hour, but stayed offshore in the Pacific Ocean.
Authorities evacuated 20,000 residents on the island of Izu Oshima, 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Tokyo, as Typhoon Wipha struck early Wednesday. Rescue workers have so far found 17 bodies, most of them buried by mudslides.
Typhoon Wipha, the strongest storm of its type in a decade, also destroyed dozens of homes and has left more than 50 people missing. Authorities have said the tolls would likely rise.
"We have no idea how bad the extent of damage could be," said Hinani Uematsu, a local official on the island.
Officials canceled up to 500 flights to and from Tokyo, most of them domestic, according to All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. Other canceled flights including two between Tokyo and Seoul and another pair between the capital and Hong Kong, according to All Nipon Airways. Altogether, the cancellations affected plans of some 61,600 travelers, according to the airlines.
Typhoon Wipha also shut down dozens of schools in the Tokyo area, and a further three people remain missing in the area surrounding the capital. Further north, the operator of the battered Fukushima nuclear plant announced that it had released some rain water trapped inside its barrages, but added that its radiation reading remained within safety limits. The Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported no ill effects on the power station, which stores thousands of tons of radiation-polluted water used to cool reactors.
By late morning, the storm remained in the Pacific Ocean, about 160 kilometers east of Koriyama in the Fukushima prefecture, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, moving northeast and gradually shifting away from the country. The forecast in the north of the country calls for more heavy rain and wind throughout Wednesday.
mkg/jr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)