TOKYO – A powerful typhoon headed north today after dumping heavy rains on Japan’s tsunami-devastated coastline, paralyzing commuter trains in the capital and leaving at least 16 people dead or missing across the country.
There had been concerns that Typhoon Roke could pose more problems for the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was sent into meltdown by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but officials said the plant weathered the storm without major incident.
Hiroki Kawamata, spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., said several cameras set up to monitor the plant were damaged, but there had been no further leaks of radioactive water or material into the environment.
The typhoon had reached the country’s northern island of Hokkaido by this morning after weakening overnight. But the storm was still packing sustained winds of up to 78 mph.
The typhoon made landfall Wednesday afternoon near the city of Hamamatsu, about 125 miles west of Tokyo, and then cut a path to the northeast and through the capital before bringing new misery to the tsunami zone. It dumped up to 17 inches of rain in some areas, triggering landslides and flooding.
Police and local media reported 16 people dead or missing, most swept away by rivers swollen with rains in the southern and central regions. One person died in a landslide in northern Iwate prefecture and two people were swept away in Sendai in the northeast.
Hundreds of tsunami survivors in government shelters in the Miyagi state town of Onagawa were forced to evacuate for fear of flooding.
Strong winds snapped power lines in many areas, and officials said more than 200,000 households in central Japan were without electricity late Wednesday.
A magnitude-5.3 earthquake struck late Wednesday just south of Fukushima in Ibaraki state. Officials said the temblor posed no danger to the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, and that it did not cause any damage or injuries in the region.