TOKYO: Japan braced today for a direct hit from one of its strongest typhoons in years as heavy rain and strong winds cut power to thousands of homes and tore roofs from buildings on its southern islands.

Typhoon Melor, on course to batter the main island of Honshu tomorrow, would be the first to make landfall in Japan since 2007.

“We are issuing storm and high-wave warnings as the typhoon is seen as one of the strongest for the past decade,” said Shinichi Nakatsukasa, a weather forecaster at the Meteorological Agency.

The storm was packing gusts of up to 216 kilometres an hour, moving south of Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands, late today, the agency reported.

The typhoon was predicted to make landfall in western Japan before dawn on Thursday, and then roar over densely populated Honshu, the industrial heartland of the world’s number two economy.

Toyota Motor ordered production to be suspended at all 12 of its domestic plants tomorrow while railway operators in western Japan said they would cancel some services of special express trains.

“Rain will be very heavy and winds will also be fairly strong on land. It is likely to make landfall with a violent force,” another weather agency official said.

A total of 10,600 households were without electricity today on islands in Japan’s far South, according to local power companies.

Some roofs were blown off while trees and power poles toppled, but there were no reports of injuries, according to local officials, who urged residents to be on alert. “We have advised people who plan to evacuate to do so during day, before winds become any stronger,” disaster management official Koki Ishino said.

Italian aid for the Philippines

ROME: Italy was to dispatch aid worth $400,000 dollars on Wednesday to the Philippines to help the victims of two massive storms, the foreign ministry said.

An aircraft would be leaving Brindisi for Manilla carrying 38 tones of material supplied by the Italian Red Cross, including generators, inflatable boats, water pumps, blankets and kitchen equipment.

Tropical storm Ketsana, which killed at least 295 people last month, was followed by Typhoon Parma a week later, causing another 16 deaths. Many areas in Manila and the northern provinces remain flooded, and the government has warned of possible epidemics. — AFP