A powerful typhoon made landfall in the main island of Japan today, killing at least six people, and forcing the evacuation of more than a million others. And just hours later the country was hit with an earthquake.
The 5.3 magnitude quake struck just south of Fukushima, where the March earthquake and tsunami crippled a complex of nuclear plants.
Typhoon Roke, the second major storm to hit the country this month, dumped more than 15 inches of rain in parts of central Japan within 24 hours, bringing with it winds of up to 130 miles an hour, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
Heavy rains triggered flooding throughout central and eastern Japan, raising the threat of landslides in a region still reeling from another powerful storm. Television footage showed drivers stranded along flooded streets. Office workers had to be rescued from buildings by boat because the rivers were too high.
In Nagoya, home to Toyota Motor Corp, the city temporarily called off an evacuation warning for 880,000 people once the rivers crested. That didn’t stop Japan’s top automakers from shutting plants as a precaution.
In Tokyo, the typhoon forced the cancellation of more than a hundred domestic flights, and halted train service at the height of rush hour. At Shibuya station, one of the city’s busiest, thousands of stranded commuters waited patiently for hours, for service to re-start. Other modes of transportation didn’t fare any better, as lines wrapped around the block for buses and taxis.
Along the ravaged northeast coast, survivors of the March 11 tsunami braced for yet another disaster. The threat of strong winds and rain forced the Tokyo Electric Power Company to halt work at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The utility suspended efforts to cover one of the reactor buildings, but said there was no risk of radioactive water overflowing, as a result of all the rain. Further north in Miyagi and Iwate prefecture, local media reported minor flooding at temporary homes.
Japan has been hit by one natural disaster after another, since a powerful earthquake and tsunami killed more than 20,000 people. Typhoon Roke comes just weeks after Typhoon Talas killed 67 people, and left dozens of others injured in central Japan.