TOKYO – A powerful typhoon was bearing down on Japan’s tsunami-ravaged northeastern coast today, approaching a nuclear power plant crippled in that disaster and prompting calls for the evacuation of more than a million people.
Even before its arrival Typhoon Roke turned deadly, with local media and police reporting five people killed or missing after being swept away by rivers swollen with rain.
The storm, packing winds of up to 134 mph, was expected to make landfall along Japan’s southeast coast around midday and then cut a path northeast through Tokyo and into the northeastern Tohoku region, which was devastated by the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.
Also in the path of the storm is the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which started spewing radiation after it was sent into meltdown by the tsunami.
Takeo Iwamoto, spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates the plant, said the cooling system for the reactors, crucial to keeping them under control, will not be endangered by the typhoon.
He said some construction work around the plant was canceled and utmost efforts were under way to prevent leaks of radioactive water and other material from the typhoon.
Japanese media reports said more than a million people have been ordered or advised to evacuate across the country as their homes may be flooded or buried in mudslides triggered by the typhoon.