TOKYO – The strongest typhoon to approach Okinawa in several years was bearing down on the southern Japanese island today as officials warned residents to stay indoors and take the utmost precaution to ensure their families’ safety.
Slow-moving Typhoon Bolaven was centered about 125 miles southeast of Okinawa and was expected to pass over the island tonight, dumping as much as 20 inches of rain over a 24-hour period, weather officials said.
The typhoon was packing extremely strong gusts reaching 155 miles per hour, which could knock over telephone poles and even overturn cars, public broadcaster NHK warned.
So far there were no reports of injuries or major damage, disaster officials in Okinawa said.
Gusts from the typhoon could equal or surpass the previous record of 165 mph gusts in a 1956 typhoon, said Tsukasa Uezu, an official with the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory.
Those strong gusts combined with the slow pace of the storm’s movement – 9 mph to the northwest – meant that the typhoon could inflict serious damage, officials warned.
More than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. At Kadena Air Base, one of the biggest bases on the island, all shops and service facilities were ordered closed and movement around the base was to be kept to a minimum.