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October 9, 2009

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Japanese take shelter from typhoon

AT least two men died as a powerful typhoon tore through Japan's main island yesterday, peeling roofs off houses, cutting electricity to hundreds of thousands and forcing flight cancellations before turning back toward the sea.

During morning rush hour, more than 2 million commuters in Tokyo were stranded for hours as trains on several lines were suspended, while elsewhere trucks were toppled on highways and bridges were destroyed by flash floods.

One man died when his motorbike slammed into a downed tree in the coastal prefecture of Wakayama, and another was killed by a falling tree just north of Tokyo, police said.

Last night, Typhoon Melor was downgraded to a tropical storm as it lost power over northern Japan and veered off the northeastern coast.

Nearly 30 people were injured and more than 11,000 people left their homes for shelters, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

TV showed the damage left by the storm - partly submerged cars, shipping containers scattered by the wind, and buildings with ceilings and walls torn away. Huge waves crashed over storm barriers onto coastal roads.

Electricity was gradually being restored to more than 500,000 homes, according to Japan's power companies.

Strong winds forced trains in Tokyo to stop midway between stations and unload passengers, and in some parts of Tokyo businessmen in suits rushed to work on roads alongside the dormant tracks. The usually punctual subways ran intermittently throughout the morning, according to Tokyo Metro Co.

The country's major airlines said at least 400 domestic flights and 20 international flights had been canceled.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Typhoon Parma, which has weakened into a tropical depression, continued to buffet the north of the country.


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