From: Hiroaki Watanabe -Reuters
Published September 7, 2007 06:39 AM

Typhoon batters Tokyo, moves on

TOKYO (Reuters) - A typhoon pounded Tokyo and surrounding areas on Friday, killing at least one man and snarling transport and power supplies, before weakening and moving north.


The typhoon, the biggest to hit Tokyo since October 2002, brought down record rainfall in many parts of the capital, but by afternoon it had weakened to a tropical storm.


Rescue workers searched for homeless people swept away by a swollen Tama river as they slept in shacks along its banks in western Tokyo.


Many were winched to safety by helicopters, although local officials said they were not sure how many others had been living along the river bank. Kyodo news agency said 29 people had been rescued.


By noon, the worst of Typhoon Fitow, whose name means "beautiful fragrant flower" in a Micronesian language, had passed to the north of Tokyo.


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The flood warning for the Tama river was lifted and train service in the capital had mostly returned to normal.


The eye of the storm was near the city of Akita, some 450 km (280 miles) north of the capital, bringing with it winds gusting to 90 km (56 miles) an hour as of 3 p.m. (2 a.m. EDT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.


It had picked up speed and was heading north at 50 km (30 miles) an hour.


Apple growers in the path of the storm hurried to pick their crops as the storm approached.


"If the apples get damaged by falling, all the effort and cost up until now will be wasted," a farmer told NHK as he harvested apples five days ahead of schedule.


During the night, a 76-year-old man was killed by a falling tree northwest of Tokyo, local police said. At least 60 people had been injured and another was missing, NHK television said.


Bedraggled commuters struggled to get to work on Friday with some expressways closed and trains, including high-speed bullet services, delayed or cancelled on many lines. About 10 million people commute to work or school in Tokyo.


Some travelers blamed climate change.


"It's rare for Tokyo to get hit directly like this," said Miho Kaido, a 36-year-old tourist who came by taxi to Tokyo station to catch a bus to Aomori in northern Japan. "The worst thing is that the trains are not running. I think global warming is having an impact and making the weather more severe."


About 23,600 households were still without electricity in Tokyo on Friday afternoon, NHK said.


In central Tokyo, tree branches and leaves littered the streets and broken umbrellas were snagged in fences and under parked cars after the stormy night, as clean-up crews moved methodically in the rain to remove the debris.


In July, a typhoon killed three people and injured more than 70 when it hit the southern island of Kyushu and moved along the country's eastern coastline.


(Additional reporting by Isabel Reynolds, Yoko Kubota, Linda Sieg and George Nishiyama)


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