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US bases on Okinawa assessing damage after Typhoon Neoguri rolls through

A U.S. servicemember heads back to work Wednesday to assess damage on Camp Shields, Okinawa, after Typhoon Neoguri hammered the island a day earlier. Typhoon Neoguri, the strongest typhoon so far in 2014 Pacific season, triggered flash flooding and emergency warnings for landslides throughout Okinawa.

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Typhoon Neoguri bore down on mainland Japan on Wednesday after drenching the country’s southern islands with the heaviest rainfall in 10 years.

The storm felled tree limbs and caused significant power outages, flooding and an unknown number of injuries on Okinawa, according to U.S. military officials, who were still compiling damage reports for each base on the island.

On Tuesday afternoon, the typhoon battered the island, where about 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed, with heavy rain and wind gusts of up to 90-100 mph. More than 17 inches of rain drenched northern Okinawa, while the south got 15 inches.

Neoguri weakened as it moved north toward Kyushu and Sasebo Naval Base, which is expected to experience high winds, scattered thunderstorms and rain through Thursday. The storm was expected to still pack a punch while moving over land toward Tokyo and U.S. bases in the Kanto Plains on Friday.

Navy Seabee Chief Dan Clowser, camp maintenance officer for Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 1 said the biggest issues he had seen were trees, branches and debris, which littered Camp Shields and damaged barbed-wire perimeter fencing.

High winds also knocked down street lights on some U.S. installations, and videos of overturned cars were on Facebook. Power outages were reported from the Chibana Housing area to Camp Foster Tower, Camp Courtney housing area and Navy lodging.

Officials from Kadena Air Base reported through social media that some people were injured when they went outside during the height of the storm against orders, forcing emergency personnel to respond.

Marine officials said there were no injuries and no calls to emergency personnel from their installations. Damage was described a minor.

Officials said preparation was key to making it through the storm relatively unscathed. Meals, Ready to Eat and water were distributed to barracks as the typhoon approached.

“We did pretty well,” Clowser said. “Nothing really bit us in the butt… It was all about the prep work and taking it seriously. Everything we could put inside, we put inside. Anything we could anchor down, we anchored down.”

Off base, the outlook was more grim. Two men were seriously injured and another 26 suffered minor injuries during the storm, according to Okinawa prefecture’s crisis management office. Vehicles were damaged, and homes flooded in Onna and Chatan.

Uruma City issued an evacuation advisory to residents along the flooded Tengan River, adjacent to Camp Courtney.

Landslides were reported at 35 locations, including Naha, Urasoe, Nago, Okinawa City and Uruma. Some roads were closed, and 75,000 people were without power, officials said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Dave Ornauer, Chiyomi Sumida and Erik Slavin contributed to this report.

burke.matthew@stripes.com

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