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Japan cancels flights as typhoon nears Okinawa


Tokyo (AFP) - Powerful Typhoon Fitow forced flight cancellations and power outages as it barrelled towards Japan's southern island chain of Okinawa on Saturday, officials said.

Japan, Taiwan and China were all bracing for the storm, with Japan's meteorological agency warning of strong winds and heavy rain, as well as the risk of tornados, just two weeks after Typhoon Usagi wreaked havoc in the region.

At 4:00 pm (0700 GMT), Fitow was about 160 kilometres (100 miles) southwest of Okinawa, and moving slowly northwest.

Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and its low-cost carrier Peach Aviation said that their flights to and from Naha had been cancelled because the typhoon.

Hong Kong's Dragonair also said its Okinawa flights had been cancelled.

About 200 households lost electricity due to the storm, the Okinawa Electric Power said, adding that strong winds and heavy rain were hampering efforts to restore power.

The typhoon, named after a flower from Micronesia, was heading towards Taiwan, which said the storm would likely pass to the north of the island on Sunday.

The Central Weather Bureau in Taiwan said the typhoon had gathered momentum and was packing gusts of 137 kilometres per hour.

"Fitow is maintaining its strength and will bring heavy rains to northern and northeastern Taiwan, especially Taipei and New Taipei cities. Its impact is expected to be at the strongest on Sunday morning," the bureau said.

At least 25 international flights were cancelled while 20 ferry services were suspended, including the one linking Taichung in central Taiwan with Xiamen city in southeastern China, Taiwanese officials said. ...more

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