As Tropical Storm Mawar approaches Japan’s southern Okinawa Islands, businesses, fishermen and the region’s airport are taking precautions. Formerly a typhoon, Tropical Storm Mawar still has high winds of up to 106 miles per hour. However, many Naha residents on Okinawan’s main island, where 20,000 US troops are stationed, have seemed unconcerned about the oncoming storm.
A weakened Tropical Storm Mawar headed toward Japan’s southern Okinawa archipelago on Thursday, forcing businesses and the airport to close and fishermen to moor their boats in preparation.
Many residents of the prefectural capital of Naha on Okinawan’s main island, where about 20,000 US troops are stationed, seemed unconcerned even as they took precautions.
Formerly a typhoon but now with winds of up to 106 miles per hour, Mawar was located around Miyako, one of Okinawa’s outlying islands, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The storm could approach Okinawa’s main island on Friday and bring strong downpours to the region, it said.
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A 76-year-old fisherman, Tatsunori Yamashiro, said he wasn’t too concerned about the waning storm.
“All I can do now is wait,” he said, sitting in his fishing boat, which he’d tied securely to a port facility. He said Mawar could have caused damage if it had hit Okinawa when it was a typhoon. “It’s weakening now and because the water temperature around Okinawa isn’t very high, it’s going to get smaller and smaller.
Mawar mostly passed through Taiwan and the Philippines after passing through Guam last week. It passed Taiwan on Tuesday with sustained winds of 96 mph and gusts of up to 190 mph, sending high waves crashing onto the island’s east coast.
As Tropical Storm Mawar approaches, fishing boats are roped into the Tomari fishing port in Naha on southern Japan’s main island of Okinawa on June 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)
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In the Philippines, authorities said heavy rains in the north of the country would continue until at least Thursday and warned of flooding, possible landslides and gale-force winds before the typhoon leaves the country’s area of responsibility.
Another fisherman in Okinawa, Ryo Niinuma, 27, said he tied up his boat and padded the sides so he wouldn’t be bumped by boats next to it.
“We are used to typhoons,” he said. “This one seems a bit early this year, but we’ve had bigger ones in the past.”
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People on Okinawa were preparing for the approaching typhoon when a warning siren woke them up on Wednesday to warn them of a North Korean missile launch. Officials urged people to stay indoors or take shelter underground from falling debris.
The missile failed and did not get close to Japan, but residents already concerned about the typhoon said it added to their stress.
Japan had deployed a number of PAC-3 land-to-air interceptors to southern islands prior to launch, but some were kept on base due to pre-typhoon safety precautions rather than being deployed to their intended locations.
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The U.S. military, which has troops stationed at multiple facilities on Okinawa, will take preparatory measures as the storm approaches, depending on need, said Captain Brett Dornhege-Lazaroff, spokesman for the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force on Okinawa.
“Our installations are following the storm closely,” he said.
Mawar slammed Guam last week, becoming the strongest typhoon to hit the US Pacific region in more than two decades, flipping cars, tearing off roofs and knocking out power.
In the Philippines, more than 8,000 people had been evacuated from flood- and landslide-prone communities to emergency shelters or relatives’ homes, but many returned home on Wednesday as the weather began to clear. No major damage was reported.