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October 8, 2009

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Japanese brace for powerful new storm

TYPHOON Melor was gathering strength yesterday as it traveled along Japan's southern coast with sustained winds of about 160 kilometers per hour, causing power outages and disrupting air and train travel.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said the typhoon is expected to hit central Japan, including the Tokyo area, today. It said Melor could dump up to 50 centimeters of rain by this evening, and issued warnings for strong winds, heavy rains and high waves along a broad swath of southern and central Japan.

In the Philippines, aid workers helped by Filipino and United States troops took advantage of improving weather in the Philippines yesterday to distribute food and clear debris in areas slowly recovering from devastating floods, as the powerful new storm threatened Japan.

US troops on counterterrorism exercises in south Philippines were diverted to help deliver food, medicine and shelter to flood victims. Last week, hundreds of US Marines and sailors based in Okinawa, Japan, brought in additional equipment, including five transport helicopters aboard two Navy ships.

Marine Captain Jorge Escatell from Houston said yesterday that US forces were helping clear garbage and other debris from the flooded streets of Marikina in the capital region and distributed 8 tons of food to Talim Island in the middle of Laguna Lake, south of Manila.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chief Bayani Fernando said more than 20,000 tons of garbage and other debris were clogging streets and waterways. He said it would take at least two months to clear the mountains of garbage.

In Japan, local governments in some parts of Tokyo made sandbags available to residents to protect their homes against flooding from rivers and canals. Rescue workers set up evacuation centers, and hundreds of public schools in the capital region were closed today as a precaution.

The typhoon grounded more than 200 domestic flights connecting southern and western regions, with some 250 flights -- both domestic and international -- expected to be canceled today. More than 100 express trains were suspended.

Many parts of Asia have been battered by wild weather over the past two weeks.


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