Japan's Okinawa lashed by Typhoon Neoguri

media captionRupert Wingfield-Hayes: 'People have been told to stay inside'

A powerful typhoon has lashed Japan's Okinawa island chain, forcing hundreds of thousands to seek shelter.

Typhoon Neoguri passed over the islands on Tuesday, bringing torrential rain and winds carrying gusts of up to 252km/h (151 mph).

Flights and some ferry services were suspended, while schools were shut. The winds uprooted trees and tore wooden buildings from their foundations.

Local officials said at least four people were injured.

About 590,000 local residents across Okinawa were advised to stay at home or move to community centres for shelter.

Flood risk

The typhoon is now headed over the East China Sea and is weakening.

Japan's weather agency lifted some of the storm and high-wave warnings issued for Okinawa on Tuesday evening, Kyodo news agency reported.

image copyrightReuters
image captionTyphoon Neoguri hit Okinawa on Tuesday and is expected to head north
image copyrightReuters
image captionWooden houses collapsed under the strong winds

However, forecasters say the typhoon is expected to reach the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, where it could bring heavy rain and the risk of flooding.

Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

In the Okinawan capital, Naha, streets were empty and the airport closed, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo reports.

Okinawans know about typhoons and most of them had heeded government warnings to stay inside or seek shelter in evacuation centres, our correspondent adds.

Two people, a 62-year-old man and an 81-year-old fisherman, were found dead, AFP news agency reported, citing police and local media.

More than 50,000 households were reported to be without power, and one oil refinery halted operations.

image copyrightAFP
image captionTrees were uprooted or split after being battered by heavy winds
image copyrightReuters
image captionSeveral thousand houses were without power in Okinawa as the storm neared

Earlier on Tuesday, Kathryn Spoor, who lives in Okinawa, told the BBC that most of the people who needed to evacuate had done so already.

Okinawa, Japan's southern-most prefecture that comprises several islands, is home to major US bases. About 26,000 US troops are stationed there under a long-standing security alliance.

Officers had evacuated some aircraft from Kadena Air Base in preparation for Typhoon Neoguri's arrival.

media captionTyphoon Neoguri

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