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Japan braces for typhoon

TOKYO, Oct 7 – Heavy rains and strong winds lashed southwestern Japan on Wednesday as a powerful typhoon approached, cutting power to more than 10,000 homes and blowing off roofs, officials said.

The violent storm is likely to be the first typhoon to make landfall in Japan since 2007, the weather agency warned.

Typhoon Melor, packing gusts of up to 216 kilometres per hour, was moving east of Amami-Oshima Island in Japan’s far south early on Wednesday, on course to hit the main island of Honshu on Thursday, it said.

"Rain will be very heavy and winds will also be fairly strong on land. It is likely to make landfall with a violent force," a weather forecaster from the agency said.

A total of 10,100 households were without electricity early on Wednesday on Amami-Oshima and other remote islets, according to the local power company.

Some roofs were blown off but there were no reports of injuries, according to prefectural officials, who urged residents to be on alert.

"We have advised people who plan to evacuate to do so during daytime, before winds become any stronger," local disaster management official Koki Ishino said.

Officials advised residents to put shields on windows, fill their bathtub in case of water supply cuts and gather daily necessities for possible evacuation.

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The storm was whipping up winds as strong as 162 kilometres per hour near its centre and feared to dump torrential rain of 500 millimetres on southwestern Japan over 24 hours to early on Thursday, the weather agency said.

Melor may make landfall in western Honshu on Thursday and roar through the archipelago on a course similar to a 1959 typhoon that left thousands dead.

Since then efforts have been made to strengthen homes and equip coastal areas with storm surge barriers.

Melor, which means jasmine in Malay, is the latest in a series of powerful typhoons to batter Asia in recent weeks.

In August, Typhoon Etau brought flashfloods and landslides that killed at least 25 people in Japan, even though it avoided a direct hit.

Another powerful storm, Ketsana, has caused devastation across Southeast Asia, killing hundreds of people, mostly in the Philippines and Vietnam. In Taiwan more than 600 people died after Typhoon Morakot struck in August.

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