Updated: 07/09/2014 23:45 | By Agence France-Presse

Typhoon Neoguri bears down on Japanese mainland

Typhoon Neoguri bore down on the Japanese mainland on Wednesday after slamming into the southern Okinawa island chain, with three people killed as powerful winds and torrential rains battered the country.

Typhoon Neoguri bears down on Japanese mainland

An uprooted tree lays across a pavement in Naha, on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, on July 9, 2014

Packing gusts of up to 144 kilometres (90 miles) per hour, the typhoon could hit the southern main island of Kyushu on Thursday before moving east along the Japanese archipelago, the national weather agency said.

Officials said Neoguri would bring torrential rain and warned of the risk of flooding and landslides, after the storm -- which has weakened from a super typhoon -- forced local authorities to advise half a million people to seek shelter in Okinawa on Tuesday.

By Wednesday night, the typhoon was churning in the East China Sea headed toward southern Japan, as round-the-clock television footage pinpointed its latest location and helmet-clad reporters surveyed the damage left by the powerful storm.

Areas outside the typhoon's immediate path were also lashed with heavy rain, with a landslide in Nagano prefecture on Honshu swallowing a house and killing a 12-year-old boy who was inside, according to major media including national broadcaster NHK.

- Dozens injured -

On Tuesday the storm claimed the life of a 62-year-old man knocked off his boat in rough waters, according to the coastguard and local police, while NHK said an 81-year-old fisherman died in southwestern Kumamoto prefecture.

Dozens were injured across Okinawa. 

In the Okinawan capital Naha, traffic lights went out and television footage showed split trees, signboards flying about and a destroyed restaurant, with the shattered building blocking a street.

The weather agency warned that as much as 300 millimetres (12 inches) of rain could fall on Kyushu in just 24 hours through noon Thursday.

Kyushu, situated next to the biggest island of Honshu where major cities including Tokyo and Osaka are located, was already experiencing heavy rain and strong winds.

Residents in remote villages and larger communities across the island -- where the largest city Fukuoka has a population of more than one million -- were being urged to seek shelter before nightfall.

In Okinawa, the weather agency's chief forecaster Satoshi Ebihara said the situation remained serious even as the typhoon moved out to sea, with the agency issuing a fresh rainfall alert.

Ebihara also called on residents across the country of 128 million to regularly monitor the latest weather warnings and advisories. 

"Typhoon Neoguri could make a landfall in Kyushu tomorrow and approach eastern Japan on the following day," he said.

"Western and eastern Japan will likely see heavy, powerful rain, particularly along the Pacific coastline. We urge people in the affected areas to exercise the utmost caution."

Just over 52,000 households had no power as of noon Wednesday in Okinawa, while schools were closed with air and sea traffic halted.

In just 12 hours, Okinawa's main island was hammered by twice the amount of rain that usually falls in the entire month of July.

Some in the village of Yomitan were shocked to see muddy water sloshing into their homes as heavy wind and rain pummelled the area.

"I'm 89 years old and this is the first time I've experienced something like this -- nature can be overwhelming," an elderly woman in the village told NHK.

The island of Sado, in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) which faces the centre of the country, saw 110 millimetres (4.3 inches) of rain in just three hours Wednesday morning. 

The weather agency described it as "torrential rain seen once in 50 years".

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