Typhoon Khanun eases off Japan’s Okinawa, but islands brace for return

TOKYO (Reuters) – Typhoon Khanun barely moved on Friday in the East China Sea, with predictions that it will approach Japan’s Okinawa islands again, raising fears of sustained damage in areas already battered by heavy rain and strong winds over the past two days.

The storm has lost strength but is still packing winds of 126 kph (78 mph) and gusts of up to 180 kph, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, adding that the typhoon was almost stationary.

Hovering about 270 km (168 miles) north-northwest of Okinawa’s Miyako Island as of 7 a.m. (2200 GMT), Khanun is forecast to make a sudden, sharp turn to the east on Friday evening and start heading up north toward Japan’s main islands next Tuesday.

About 53,000 households in Okinawa, or about 8% of homes covered, remained stuck without electricity for a third day, down from 25% on Thursday, local utility Okinawa Electric Power said.

Television footage on Thursday showed tourists stranded in Okinawa flocked to Naha Airport, which resumed operation that day after shutting down for two days, forming long queues to buy airplane tickets to leave the islands.

In northern Taiwan, land warnings were lifted on Friday and businesses and schools that were shut on Thursday due to the typhoon reopened. In the capital Taipei, more than 200 trees and street signs were downed, but no major damage was reported.

Authorities, however, were on high alert for more heavy rain to be dumped in the wake of the typhoon over the weekend in central and southern Taiwan, where close to a half meter of rainfall has been recorded.

(Reporting by Satoshi Sugiyama in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee in Taipei; Editing by Sonali Paul)