TOKYO – The strongest typhoon to approach Okinawa in several years was bearing down on the southern Japanese island on Sunday as officials warned residents to stay indoors and take the utmost precaution to ensure their families' safety.
Slow-moving Typhoon Bolaven was centered about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Okinawa and was expected to pass over the island Sunday evening, dumping as much as 500 millimeters (20 inches) of rain over a 24-hour period, weather officials said.
The typhoon was packing extremely strong gusts reaching 250-kilometers-per-hour (155-miles-per-hour), which could knock over telephone poles and even overturn cars, public broadcaster NHK warned. Waves could top 12 meters (13 yards), it said.
So far there were no reports of injuries or major damage, disaster officials in Okinawa said.
Gusts from the typhoon could equal or surpass the previous record of 265 kph (165 mph) gusts in a 1956 typhoon, said Tsukasa Uezu, an official with the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory.
Those strong gusts combined with the slow pace of the storm's movement — 15 kph (9 mph) to the northwest — meant that the typhoon could inflict serious damage, officials warned.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency said maximum wind speed near the center of the typhoon was 180 kph (112 mph). It issued storm and storm surge warnings in Okinawa prefecture and for high waves in the waters around the island.
More than half the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. At Kadena Air Base, one of the biggest bases on the island, all shops and service facilities were ordered closed and movement around the base was to be kept to a minimum. All entry into the ocean was prohibited.