Powerful typhoon pounded across southern Japan Tuesday

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Powerful typhoon pounded across southern Japan Tuesday
A landslide is caused by heavy rain in Nago, Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 9, 2014. Typhoon Neoguri lashed Japan's southern Okinawa islands, reportedly leaving two dead and forcing more than half a million to seek shelter, as the region's worst storm in years damaged buildings, downed trees and brought air and sea traffic to a halt. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Landslide caused by a heavy rain in Nago, Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 9, 2014. Typhoon Neoguri lashed Japan's southern Okinawa islands, reportedly leaving two dead and forcing more than half a million to seek shelter, as the region's worst storm in years damaged buildings, downed trees and brought air and sea traffic to a halt. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
People look at a landslide caused by heavy rain in Nago, Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 9, 2014. Typhoon Neoguri lashed Japan's southern Okinawa islands, reportedly leaving two dead and forcing more than half a million to seek shelter, as the region's worst storm in years damaged buildings, downed trees and brought air and sea traffic to a halt. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
NAHA, OKINAWA, JAPAN - JULY 08: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A restaurant is destroyed by the storm by the Typhoon Neoguri, or no. 8, on July 8, 2014 in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency have issued a caution that the typhoon is one of the 'biggest class typhoon in July', approximately 1,000 residents in Okinawa mainland have evacuated. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
NAHA, OKINAWA, JAPAN - JULY 08: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A man removes a branch which was blown off by a storm as the Typhoon Neoguri, or no. 8, hits on July 8, 2014 in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency have issued a caution that the typhoon is one of the 'biggest class typhoon in July', approximately 1,000 residents in Okinawa mainland have evacuated. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
NAHA, OKINAWA, JAPAN - JULY 08: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A street trees are blown by the storm by the Typhoon Neoguri, or no. 8, on July 8, 2014 in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency have issued a caution that the typhoon is one of the 'biggest class typhoon in July', approximately 1,000 residents in Okinawa mainland have evacuated. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
NAHA, OKINAWA, JAPAN - JULY 08: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) A tree on a street is fallen by a storm triggered by the Typhoon Neoguri, or no. 8, on July 8, 2014 in Naha, Okinawa, Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency have issued a caution that the typhoon is one of the 'biggest class typhoon in July', approximately 1,000 residents in Okinawa mainland have evacuated. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
Trees have collapsed by strong wind on a street at Naha in Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Roadside trees are blasted by strong winds along relatively empty streets in Naha on Japan's southern island of Okinawa as Typhoon Neoguri hit the area on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing on July 8 for one of its worst storms in over a decade as Typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman squats down to avoid strong winds brought by Typhoon Neoguri along a street in Naha on Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing on July 8 for one of its worst storms in over a decade as Typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Trees have collapsed by strong wind at Naha in Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Pedestrians walk against strong wind at Naha in Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Vehicles drivve on a wet road at Naha in Japan's southern island of Okinawa on July 8, 2014 . Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents battle strong wind as they walk on a suspension bridge in the New Taipei City as typhoon Neoguri near the eastern Taiwan on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents walk on a suspension bridge in the New Taipei City as typhoon Neoguri near the eastern Taiwan on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
A man swims in the Hsintien river in the New Taipei City as typhoon Neoguri nears the eastern Taiwan on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents battle strong wind as they walk on a suspension bridge in the New Taipei City as typhoon Neoguri near the eastern Taiwan on July 8, 2014. Japan was bracing for one of its worst storms in over a decade as typhoon Neoguri barreled towards the southern Okinawa island chain, with 55,000 people urged to evacuate as the weather agency issued its highest alert. AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
JAPAN - JULY 7: In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Super Typhoon Neoguri approaches Okinawa island on July 7, 2014 in Japan. With sustained winds of 198 kilometers per hour, the storm could be one of the strongest to hit Japan in decades. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
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By ELAINE KURTENBACH

TOKYO (AP) -- A powerful typhoon pounded across the southern Japanese islands of Okinawa on Tuesday, as residents took refuge from destructive winds, towering waves and storm surges.

Airports closed and residents were evacuated from low-lying areas and shorelines as Typhoon Neoguri was passing through Okinawa, packing sustained winds of 175 kilometers (108 miles) per hour and gusts up to 250 kph (154 mph), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The storm was due to hit the main Okinawan city of Naha Tuesday evening. The national broadcaster said one woman had suffered a head injury due to the storm and one fisherman was missing after he was swept off a boat in seas near the southern island of Kyushu.

Television footage showed roads in Naha strewn with greenery and some downed trees.

Officials said the storm could be one of the strongest to hit Japan in decades, generating waves up to 14 meters (46 feet) high. But since typhoons track along Japan's coasts and occasionally veer onshore every summer, the country is relatively well prepared.

"Please take refuge as early as possible," said Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission.

The meteorological agency issued special warnings for violent winds, heavy rain and storm surges. The storm was moving slowly and diminishing in intensity, but its wide area and slow movement could add to the potential damage, weather forecasters said.

Evacuation advisories were issued for some 500,000 people, and about 500 sought refuge in Naha's city hall, NHK reported.

Government leaders held an emergency meeting Monday, urging local governments and residents to take maximum precautions. Authorities in China and Taiwan also warned ships to stay clear of the storm.

Forecasts show the storm tracking toward Kyushu island and then across Japan's main island of Honshu. It is forecast to lose more of its power over land, but much of the damage from such storms comes from downpours that cause landslides and flooding. Such risks are elevated by the storm's timing, on the tail end of Japan's summer rainy season.

The Philippines, which suffered the strongest typhoon to ever hit land when Haiyan struck six months ago, was spared the ferocious winds of Neoguri. The storm did not make land fall and remained about 480 kilometers (300 miles) east of the northernmost province of Batanes, when it roared past on Sunday.

The typhoon did intensify the country's southwest monsoon, dumping heavy rains on some western Philippine provinces.

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