Rare Tornado Hits Japan, 9 Dead - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/7/06-TOKYO, Japan

Rare Tornado Hits Japan, 9 Dead

Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido, northern Japan Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido, northern Japan

 A tornado ripped through a northern Japanese town on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and injuring 25 more, officials said. Several hours after the twister, two people were missing and believed to be trapped under the rubble of flattened homes and offices.

The tornado, which knocked out electricity and flipped over cars in the town of Saroma on the northern island of Hokkaido, was the deadliest tornado on record in Japan.

Local television showed a scene of devastation, with a wide swath of collapsed buildings, badly damaged cars and utility poles strewn across streets. Many of the victims were construction workers building a tunnel near the town, officials said.

Tornados are relatively rare in Japan.

According to the Central Meteorological Agency, the worst tornado previously recorded in Japan was just two months ago, when three people were killed on the southern island of Kyushu. The agency only has records of tornado-related deaths going back to 1961.

National broadcaster NHK quoted a local woman, Keiko Takeda, as saying that the skies suddenly darkened over the town and when she opened her window winds were swirling outside.

"It was very strong, but it was over very quickly," she said.

The twister blacked out several hundred homes and also disturbed phone communications, police said. Some 350 police officers were being mobilized in the relief effort.

The twister hit Saroma shortly after 1 p.m., said area fire department official Nobuaki Ueda.

Ueda had no immediate details on the severity of the injuries to the 25 people, although he said 10 were able to go the hospital on their own, while the other 15 were taken in ambulances.

Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan's four main islands. Saroma, which has a population of 6,244, is approximately 620 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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