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Sixteen dead as tropical storm moves toward northern Japan
Updated: 2005-09-07 20:28

A powerful tropical storm churned northward in the sea between Japan and the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and leaving landslides and flooded towns in its wake.

The storm was headed toward Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, where up to 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rain was expected by early Thursday, the Meteorological Agency said.

Typhoon Nabi slammed into southern Japan on Tuesday, flooding towns and driving more than 300,000 people from their homes. About 1,500 soldiers were deployed to fortify coastal defenses and help in the rescue effort.

It lost strength Wednesday as it roiled over the Sea of Japan and was downgraded to a tropical storm. But it still was churning winds of up to 108 kilometers (67 miles) per hour, the agency said.

Authorities in Japan said at least 16 people were killed in mudslides and flooding. Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported 17 deaths and said eight people were still missing.

South Korea's National Emergency Management Agency said two people were missing there, while the country's Yonhap News Agency said the whereabouts of five people were unknown.

More than 70,000 homes, mainly on Kyushu island, were still without electricity Wednesday afternoon, power companies said.

Japan Airlines and its affiliates canceled 47 flights Wednesday morning, while All Nippon Airlines grounded 43 flights, affecting almost 12,000 people. Flights returned to normal in the afternoon, the two companies said.

In Shikoku, the storm brought rain to a region that had seen its water supply dissipate to critical levels over the last few weeks.

Water levels at Sameura Dam, which fell to zero percent last week and prompted officials to divert water normally used to generate electricity to local communities, rose to 100 percent after heavy rains yesterday, a dam official said on condition of anonymity, citing government policy.

Nabi, meaning butterfly in the Korean language, also caused damage in South Korea, dumping up to 35 centimeters (14 inches) of rain in southern and eastern parts of the country from Monday through Wednesday morning.

One person was missing after being swept away by a swollen stream in Ulsan, about 410 kilometers (255 miles) southeast of Seoul, on Tuesday. Another was missing after his car slipped off a rain-slickened road in Gyeongju, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southeast of Seoul, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

About 2,330 police and firefighters were carrying out recovery work in Ulsan, one of the hardest-hit cities, it said.

High waves caused a 5,470-ton Vietnamese cargo ship, Long Xuyen, to run aground near the southeastern port city of Pohang, Yonhap said. Its 22 crew members were safe, it said.

Last year, a record 10 typhoons and tropical storms struck Japan, leaving nearly 220 people dead or missing _ the largest casualty toll since 1983. South Korea is typically hit by one or two storms a year.

Typhoon Tokage, which hit Japan in October, was the country's deadliest storm in more than a decade, killing 83 people.

Scientists partially blamed last year's intense storm season on warmer-than-average ocean temperatures.

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