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Other Environment News



The Financial Times: Ask the experts: Urban planet

   Next year most of the world's population will be living in cities, but for

one in three people that will mean a crime-ridden slum with inadequate housing

and services.


   Rapid urban growth will present enormous environmental problems with

overcrowding and poor housing compounded by poor sanitation and a lack of clean

water.
   Anna Tibaijuka, executive director at UN-Habitat, (above right) and Fiona

Harvey, (above left), FT environment correspondent, answer your questions in a

live Q&A today from 1pm BST. Click the refresh button on your browser for the

latest
   The ANC has promised to get rid of all the slums in Johannesburg by 2014. Is

this a realistic ambition and can it be done without forcing people to leave

their homes Sue Knights, Johannesburg, South Africa


   Anna Tibaijuka: It is widely accepted that political will in responding to

the reality of slums is pivotal in mobilising commitment to help the urban poor

to gain access to adequate shelter, livelihoods and services. South Africa

stands out as one of the countries that has demonstrated consistent political

commitment over the last years to large-scale slum upgrading and service

provision for the urban poor. It is true that so far its slum growth has fallen

by only 0.5 per cent but the South African government and especially the local

authorities are demonstrating that it is possible to develop the capacity to

use their mandates and resources for sound and participatory urban development

policy.
   In the last few years, the slum annual growth was reduced to 0.49 per cent

while the urban population is growing at a rate of 1.6%. In addition to this,

they are mobilising resources to ameliorate the present situations, planning for

future needs, expanding local sources of revenue, attracting investment all in

active cooperation and dialogue with residents, but especially with the urban

poor.
   In such an environment, we hope that people will not be forced to leave their

homes, but on the contrary to participate actively in the transformation of

their living conditions.
   Fiona Harvey: It certainly sounds challenging, but it's not impossible if the

political will and economic resources are there. People should not be forced to

leave their homes, but should be given incentives to move elsewhere if that is

necessary. Or their homes can be improved to allow people to continue living

where they want to, but with access to basic infrastructure.
   The UN has found that one of the most important factors in successfully

replacing slums with decent housing is a consistent, long term political will to

tackle the problem, and unfortunately that appears to be what has most often

been lacking in many places in the past. If the ANC can provide that, the

practical infrastructural problems can be overcome.
   With the unprecedented rise of the city, how can we make sure that we

preserve our natural environment? Shouldn't we put more pressure on urban

planners when it comes to environmental conservation? David Mason, Bradford, UK
   Anna Tibaijuka: I believe that the environmental future of the planet will be

won or lost in the streets of our cities. After all this is where most of the

resources are consumed creating large and unsustainable ecological footprints.

If successful, good urban governance and planning can make cities and towns

environmentally sustainable.
   It has been clear ever since the Rio Conference that environmental management

has to be closely linked to the management of cities and human settlements. In

response, urban planning has been changing over the years to meet the demands of

ever-expanding cities both in the developed and developing world.


   Conventional urban planning worked in stable political and institutional

environments with well-coordinated mechanisms, sound development strategies,

functional markets and effective intervention strategies. But it has been less

effective in poor countries with ill-equipped structures and serious problems of

governance.
   In a world where almost one billion people live in slums, we need to find a

new concept of urban planning, which combines concerted action by local

authorities, national governments, civil society actors and the international

community, works to alleviate the plight of slum dwellers. Urban planning cannot

yield positive results in an environment of poverty with weak governance

structures.


   In other words, urban planners cannot just work to ensure environmental

sustainability, our argument is that they must also struggle to make cities and

towns socially sustainable. After all poverty is the greatest polluter of them

all.
   There are an increasing number of initiatives that integrate environmental

and social concerns. For example, UN-Habitat has been working closely with other

UN agencies and partners on "localising agenda 21" and "sustainable cities" to

help reduce the impact cities have on the environment.
   What these projects and programmes illustrate is that urban planning will

only be effective if it addresses problems that are rooted in the

socio-economic and political realities of our time.
   Fiona Harvey: In some ways, the rise of the city is a good thing for the

natural environment as it keeps more people in one place, rather than spread

out everywhere. But cities themselves can be made less environmentally

destructive by investing in cleaner power (renewable electricity, for example,

or at least ways of avoiding the use of coal or biomass for domestic cooking);

by providing good public transport and enforcing pollution standards on private

vehicles; by investing in waste management facilities that enable waste to be

recycled, composted or burned for energy instead of being sent to landfill; by

preserving areas of woodland, wetland or other natural features in parks within

cities; and by ensuring that industries are adopting technology that eliminates

or minimises the pollution they cause.

   The problem of overcrowded slums come from rural people no longer being able

to make a decent living. Should the UN and governments around the world consider

ways of making rural life more attractive? Overcrowded cities in the developing

world ultimately result in slums and shanty towns. How can organisations such as

UN-Habitat encourage people to leave urban life and return to the rural areas?

Jamie McGeorge, London, UK
   Anna Tibaijuka: There are no silver bullets: the failure of agricultural

policies in the developing world are closely linked to the issue of agricultural

subsidies in the developed world. Though no one has been able to stop migration

to cities, it is clear that a more vibrant agricultural sector would contribute

greatly to reducing the flow of people into the urban areas.
   As outlined below, there is also an urgent need for comprehensive integrated

strategies of rural and urban development that would ensure more investment in

infrastructure to link rural and urban areas.
   It is interesting to note that the "commission for Africa report" pointed out

that Africa is one of the few continents where railway infrastructure only

connects mines and extractive industries to the ports, rarely creating networks

for market exchange. The report rightly calls on the international community to

invest more in infrastructure in order to improve rural urban linkages and to

allow agricultural markets to flourish.


   Having said this it is important to understand that the growth of cities is

not just a phenomenon of migration from rural to urban areas. An increasing

proportion of people are migrating from smaller cities to larger cities. At the

same time, natural population increases are becoming a significant contributor

to urban growth, and reclassification of rural settlements into urban areas is

speeding the rate of urbanisation.


   The implication of all this is that though rural development can and should

be encouraged, it is not an antidote for urbanisation.


   Fiona Harvey: I see you live in London - is that because you weren't able to

make a decent living on the land, or did you want the amenities and social

opportunities that only a city could provide?
   People don't just want to live in cities because rural life does not offer

enough economically - they want better access to services, such as health and

education, they want a wider range of opportunity, they want the social life

that cities provide. People have wanted to live in cities for millennia. If this

is what people want, the answer is not to encourage them to return to rural

areas - as they won't - but to improve the infrastructure of cities to cope with

such a large influx of people.

   What steps can be taken to improve environmental and sanitary conditions in

the various slums around the world? People come to big cities for better jobs,

education and healthcare, even if it means living in a slum. Can we improve the

standard of living for the slumdweller or are large and controversial slum

clearances (like those that we saw in Zimbabwe last year) inevitable Rebecca

Grant, LA, US
   Anna Tibaijuka: The formation of slums is neither inevitable nor acceptable.

Experience shows that it is not possible to run the poor out of town either

through evictions or discriminatory practices. This is not the answer.
   UN-Habitat's position is that it is possible to help the poor to become more

integrated into the fabric of urban society through jobs, education opportunity

and access to housing and basic services. This is the only long-lasting and

sustainable solution to the growing urbanisation of poverty.


   The first and most important step is for governments and local authorities to

understand that urbanisation is here to stay. The urban poor are not going to

disappear and demolishing their homes is only a recipe for long-term disaster.

Instead what is needed for local authorities to eject outmoded forms of

governance and old colonial by laws. The poor have a right to the city and it is

the job of local authorities to encourage inclusive cities.


   When writing my report on Zimbabwe, as the UN secretary general's special

envoy on human settlements issues in Zimbabwe, I stressed the fact that crisis

of eviction in that country was a reflection of the larger crisis of

urbanisation in Africa. In fact, the report calls for a global commitment to

prioritising the shelter needs of the urban poor.
   Fortunately, this call has been taken up by the African Union and NEPAD which

are strongly committed to improving the management of the cities in the

continent and to slum upgrading. This was reinforced in the "commission for

Africa report. "Our common interest" stated categorically that urbanisation was

the second greatest challenge facing Africa after HIV/Aids and that more

resources have to be targeted at urban development. Specifically, it called for

the funding of a slum upgrading facility that can help developing countries

establish pro-poor mortgage mechanisms.


   Unfortunately, one of the sad facts about development is that international

aid agencies have tended to invest more in rural areas. The presumption is that

anyone living in the city is better off but, as UN-Habitat statistics show, the

poor suffer from an urban penalty, the result of which is that their children

die younger. This new phenomenon, known as the "urbanisation of poverty", needs

to be taken seriously by everyone so that new ways of funding can be found for

slum upgrading and pro-poor shelter.
   Evidence from around the world suggests that it is possible to implement

massive slum upgrading programmes through good governance; pro-poor policies and

most importantly, resource mobilisation. In fact, UN-Habitat's" state of the

world cities report 2006" shows that countries that had successfully reduced

slum growth rates, slum proportion and slum populations in the last 15 years

shared many attributes: their governments had shown long-term political

commitment to slum upgrading and prevention; many had undertaken progressive

pro-poor land and housing reforms to improve the tenure status of slum dwellers

or to improve their access to basic services; most used domestic resources to

scale up slum improvements and prevent future growth; and significant number had

put in place policies that emphasised equity in an environment of economic

growth.
   Fiona Harvey: Large slum clearances are not necessary, and it is possible to

move people from one area to another, or to improve their standard of living

without resorting to force. Environmental and sanitary conditions can be vastly

improved by the supply of basic infrastructure - the most basic are water and

sewage. The most important condition for successfully improving people's living

conditions is having the "buy-in" and support of local people.
   Too often in the past, aid agencies or governments have provided some piece

of basic infrastructure, like a water pump or well, and then left, leaving local

people without the means to maintain it, so that a few years later the situation

has reverted to what it was before. If local people have a stake in the

development of their area, they are more likely to maintain it. This can include

giving people legal title to the land they inhabit, which encourages people to

invest their resources into developing it, without fear it will be taken from

them.


   Mexico City has experienced tremendous, and rather uncontrolled growth over

the past couple decades. The massive migration of people from the countryside to

Mexico City has been a cause of a widespread mentality of people in Mexico that

life in the city may bring better opportunities. This massive migration has

created misery belts around the city with rising poverty and crime. This has

happened in major cities in China, but to a much lesser extent, and it is mostly

due to government migration regulations where you are not allowed to move

without prior authorisation.


   These regulations have proven to be somewhat effective in preventing the

massive (relatively speaking) growth of misery belts around cities in China.

However, they seem a bit extreme in the sense that it limits people's freedom

of movement around the country. I would just like to know your opinion on these

regulations, if they are extreme or effective, and if they would be applicable

in other countries where growth rates are worrying. Also, what types of

strategies do you suggest in order to prevent misery belts from forming around

major cities in the world Jaime Mart, Mexico City


   Anna Tibaijuka: In a democracy people vote with their feet and move freely to

areas that offer them opportunities. It is very difficult to stop the flow of

people into cities and towns. Urbanisation is one of the most powerful,

irreversible forces in the world.


   Today, half of the world's population live in urban areas and it is estimated

that 93 per cent of the future urban population growth will occur in the cities

of Asia and Africa and to a lesser extent Latin America and the Caribbean.
   Traditionally, urbanisation has been closely linked to the process of

industrialisation. With increased agricultural productivity, people were pushed

off the land and pulled into the factories in cities.
   However, today, Africa and many other developing countries seem to be going

through a process of 'premature urbanisation'. Because of the many conflicts on

the continent and the failure of agricultural policies, Africans are being

pushed into cities where, unfortunately, there are no jobs.


   Clearly what is needed in Africa is a cessation of hostilities. At the same

time, policy makers and planners have to design integrated strategies of rural

and urban development that, amongst other things, encourage the growth of

smaller towns. This is one of the best ways to avoid the creation of

mega-cities with their unmanageable slums. However, many such strategies falter

because the success of agricultural policies is closely linked to the problems

of agricultural subsidies and international trade.
   In the case of Mexico city, as in many other mega-cities of the world, we

have observed that the economies of scale that a large city offers - employment,

education, and social amenities - can become dis-economies of scale. With

increased size the negative externalities mean that land and transport costs are

extremely high and pollution is rampant.
   Fortunately, many cities have a natural tendency to stop growing. This

happens either because the rural population no longer moves to the city, for the

reasons cited above, or because the urban population starts moving to the

suburbs. This is already happening in Mexico City. In the 1960s, the cities

annual growth rate was 6 per cent, but today it is 1.3 per cent and it is

estimated to go down to 0.8 per cent in 2020.


   As for the misery belts in cities around the world, there are many well

established ways for in-situ slum upgrading that involve partnership between

governments, local authorities, the private sector, non-governmental

organisations and the poor themselves. For example, governments in developing

countries need to build on the experience of micro-credit facilities to

encourage banks to establish pro-poor mortgage mechanisms. What is the needed is

the political will and resources to upscale these projects and programmes.
   In conclusion, it is important to note that, finally, the problems of slum

dwellers are being taken more seriously. The realisation that there are already

one billion slum dwellers and that this figure could double by 2030, is starting

to galvanise the international community.


   In 2000, at the Millennium Summit, world leaders voiced their concern about

the increasing number of slum dwellers, going so far as to ensure that one of

the Millennium Development Goals (Goal 7 Target 11) was specifically aimed at

improving the lives of slum dwellers.


   Fiona Harvey: Rather than tell people where they are allowed to live and

where they can't, which most people in a democracy would find an infringement

of their freedoms, governments can create incentives for people to move to

certain areas and avoid certain others. They can try to direct migration by

pointing out to people thinking of moving the opportunities available in a

variety of places, rather than the most obvious city (often the capital, or the

biggest city).
   Providing infrastructure, such as homes, water, electricity and public

transport, in an area that is underdeveloped can help to attract migrants there

instead of to other, overcrowded places. But in order to be sustainable, there

must be jobs available in these areas as well as infrastructure, or people will

soon leave them. Governments must accept that people will move to where they see

opportunity, with permission or not, and deal with the situation accordingly -

trying to stop people doesn't work, as they find a way to move legally or

illegally.

   With most of the world's population living in cities next year, how is the

demand for clean drinking water for all going to be met Michael Glennan, NY, US


   Anna Tibaijuka: Many cities are beginning to confront water shortages. Right

now the cities in the developed world are consuming ten times more drinking

water than those in developing countries: 500 to 800 litres per day as compared

with 60 to 150 litres per day.


   However with 93 per cent of the projected urban growth in the next fifteen

years taking place in developed countries, in small and medium sized cities, it

remains to be seen how they will cope with increased demand for water. Already,

in many cities of the developing world, the urban poor are penalised, living

without clean water or adequate sanitation. It is therefore hardly surprising

that one of the "Millennium Development Goals" is committed to halving the

number of people living without clan water and adequate sanitation by 2015.
   If this is to be achieved, there is no question that local authorities will

need to initiate comprehensive water management strategies. In the future, UN

-Habitat's research suggests that the urban water crisis will lead to more

political problems and a crisis of governance. Decisions will have to be made to

trade off the competing demands of agriculture, industry and domestic use.
   At the same time, local authorities need to ensure greater efficiency in the

use of this precious resource. For example, already, in many cities, both in the

developed and developing world, over 50 per cent of the water is unaccounted

for, often being lost through leakages, this means that local authorities must

opt for stringent water audits and commit themselves to improving infrastructure

and delivery.


   The future need not be bleak if one takes into account that in many

developing countries, innovative public/private partnerships, which include

community participation, have helped to rationalise the distribution of water,

leading to overall savings and the delivery of water to the urban poor.


   Fiona Harvey: In the short term the simple answer is that it will not be met,

just as it has not been met in the past. In order to meet the enormous demand,

governments will have to think imaginatively. Neither the public sector alone,

nor the private sector, is likely to have all the answers. There must be

partnerships between public sector bodies and private sector companies to bring

clean drinking water, and sewage services, to areas that don't have it. At

present, poor people pay more for drinking water than the rich, because they

often must buy it from street vendors or travel long distances to get the water,

while rich people have a cheap (often state-subsidised) supply piped to their

houses.


   What positives can come from the rapid rate of global urbanisation we are

currently experiencing Avi Cohen, Israel


   Anna Tibaijuka: Fifty per cent of the world's population now live in cities

and towns and this figure is projected to rise quite steeply within the next few

decades. Though the proportion of people living in cities and towns in North

and South America and Europe has stabilised at 75 per cent of the population, it

is now the turn of Africa and Asia, which though they are still predominantly

rural, will be in for a major demographic shift.


   Urbanisation is the direct result of industrialisation and though it led to

slums in Victorian England, and there are currently over one billion slum

dwellers in the world, urbanisation in itself need not be negative. In fact,

throughout history, cities have been centres of creativity and economic growth.


   Recent statistics from UN-Habitat's "state of the world cities report" show

that the link between urbanisation and socio-economic development cannot be

disputed. Cities make countries rich. Countries that are highly urbanised have

higher incomes, more stable economies, stronger institutions and are better able

to withstand the volatility of the global economy than those with less urbanised

populations. Urban-based economic activities account for up to 55 per cent of

gross nation product (GNP) in low-income countries, 73 per cent in middle-income

countries and 85 per cent in high income countries.


   Cities are also the engines of rural development. They provide many

opportunities for investment, which not only support urban development but also

contribute to rural development in an environment of strong urban-rural

linkages.


   Finally, contrary to popular perception, infrastructure investments in urban

areas are not only cost-effective but also environmentally sound. The

concentration of population and enterprises in urban areas greatly reduces the

unit cost of piped water, sewers, drains, roads, electricity, garbage

collection, transport, healthcare, and schools.
   Fiona Harvey: People flock to cities partly because that's where they want to

live - with other people, because that's where economic and social

opportunities lie, and it's where people are most likely to gain easy access to

services, such as health services and education. So the move to cities should

not be seen as a bad thing per se, and many people would prefer to live in

cities than in the countryside. But the problem is that most people moving into

growing cities in developing countries will lack basic infrastructure such as

water and electricity, and will find it difficult to get jobs.


   The structures that have been set up to aid development in poorer countries

must also change to take account of rapid urbanisation. In the past, a lot of

aid work in the developing world has been focused on the rural poor, but it is

clear that in the future the urban poor will need more and more assistance. That

could bring more positives, in the form of better infrastructure and economic

development in poor cities.

   Background
   Slumdwellers suffer what MsTibaijuka the human settlements programme, calls

the "urban penalty". She explains: "They have worse health [because of poor

sanitation] and they are affected by the worst effects of industrial pollution.

If there is a flood or a disaster, it's the poor who always suffer."


   Ms Tibaijuka wants central government to direct migration better in order to

avoid congestion in the most populous slums. This need not involve controversial

forced clearances; instead, strategies can be developed to help people migrating

from the countryside find shelter in the cities best able to accommodate them,

she argues.
   With epidemic disease, overcrowding, malnutrition and crime all growing, how

can urban cities become safer and cleaner places to live? How can we make city

life sustainable against a backdrop of rising urban populations? And with the

strain upon current urban infrastructures, what does this mean for the state of

our cities in the developing world?
___________________________________________________________________________
BBC: Chinese drought affects millions

At least 18 million people have been affected by China's worst drought in 50 years, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

The south-western region of Chongqing has been worst hit, but areas of Sichuan and Liaoning are also affected.

In Chongqing there has been no rain for more than 70 days, and two-thirds of the rivers have dried up, Xinhua said.

Residents in some mountain villages are having to walk up to 2km (1.25 miles) to get water.

At least one person is said to have died from heatstroke, and Xinhua estimates the drought has caused economic losses of 11.74bn yuan ($1.24bn).

Weather extremes

The Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Thursday that in 2006, China had faced its most severe natural disasters for six year.

By 15 August this year, natural disasters had killed 2,006 people, affected more than 316m others and caused economic losses of 160bn yuan ($20bn), the ministry estimated, according to Xinhua.

Earlier this year, some parts of China were hit by heavy snowfall, while in recent months there have been several deadly typhoons, each killing hundreds of people.

This drought is again affecting millions of people. According to Xinhua, 10m people in Sichuan, nearly 8m in Chongqing and 600,000 in Liaoning do not have enough access to drinking water at the moment.

The problem has also affected huge areas of farmland, with crop failures and the death of cattle.

The Sichuan meteorological bureau has forecast that the drought will continue, at least for the next few days.

___________________________________________________________________________



Reuters: China Power Grids Strained by Heat, Drought

CHINA: August 18, 2006

BEIJING - Soaring temperatures and the worst drought in over 50 years have strained power grids in southwestern China and caused blackouts in at least one city in the east, state media reported on Thursday.

Electricity generators have struggled in recent years to match demand during hot months when power-guzzling air-conditioning is turned on, but a slew of new capacity meant there had been hardly any problems reported this summer.

But Hangzhou, capital of coastal Zhejiang province, cut its power supply on Tuesday to avoid breakdown of a key transmission line after power consumption climbed nearly a quarter higher than a year earlier, the Shanghai Daily reported.

Temperatures in the city had nudged 38 degrees Celsius at the start of the week, and demand outpaced supply capacity by around 250 megawatts, the report added.

Neighbouring provinces struggling to keep their own lights on and engines running had no spare power to offer.

In Chongqing, at the centre of a drought that has reduced water levels in the country's longest river to the lowest since records began, businesses were told to suspend production in the afternoon and evening to ease pressure on the network.

Temperatures in the southwestern city exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, after a July when the average temperature stood at 31 degrees Celsius, more than 3 degrees above long-term averages.

But the China Meteorological Administration has forecast a cooler than usual start to the autumn for the city after a warm August.

___________________________________________________________________________
The Daily TelegraphTyphoon hits Japanese island

TYPHOON Wukong slammed today into the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, triggering landslides, cancelling dozens of flights and leading to two deaths and three injuries, officials said.

Wukong, which means Monkey King in Chinese, hit Miyazaki prefecture some 900 kilometres southwest of Tokyo early today and lashed the region with heavy rains, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Some 110 people were evacuated from the path of the 10th typhoon of the season but the first to make landfall on the main Japanese islands.

A 66-year-old man was seriously injured in Nagasaki prefecture in northern Kyushu as he broke his hip after falling from the roof where he was fixing gutter downpipes, a police spokesman said.

Two other people were also injured on Kyushu today, while a surfer and an angler died yesterday in rough weather conditions caused by Wukong, police said. Another angler was missing.

The typhoon also caused seven landslides, cut roads at three points and damaged three houses on the southwestern island, he said.

As of 1.40pm (1440 AEST), the typhoon was located over Nagasaki prefecture, packing winds up to 83 kilometres per hour.

It was moving northwest at a speed of 15 kilometres per hour, sweeping over Kyushu, the agency said, adding that it was likely to head toward South Korea.

Japan Airlines cancelled at least 31 flights while All Nippon Airways called off 34 flights.

Several local train services were suspended on Kyushu.

Passenger ships were also cancelled between Fukuoka, Kyushu's biggest population centre, and South Korea's second largest city Busan.

___________________________________________________________________________
Bloomberg.com:Tropical Storm Hits Japan's Kyushu; Flights Cancelled (Update2)

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Tropical Storm Wukong made landfall near Miyazaki city on the western Japanese island of Kyushu early this morning, bringing heavy rains and thunderstorms, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported.

Wukong, with maximum sustained winds of 83 kilometers per hour (52 miles), was about 112 kilometers south of the city of Fukuoka at 4 p.m. and had almost stopped moving, the weather agency said. The storm is forecast to skirt Fukuoka, with a population of 1.4 million people, early tomorrow.

Japan is regularly buffeted by tropical storms and typhoons, which left scores dead in 2004. Wukong, named after the Monkey King in the Chinese novel Journey to the West, crossed land shortly after 1 a.m. and brought rains of 55 millimeters (2.1 inches) per hour, Kyodo news reported. Three people were injured and 500 were forced to leave their homes, it said.

Heavy rain, flood, storm and high wave warnings are in affect for all of Kyushu and parts of adjacent Honshu, Japan's weather agency said.

Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co., the country's two largest carriers, canceled at least 36 domestic flights, they said.

Idemitsu Kosan Co., Japan's second-biggest petroleum refiner, Cosmo Oil Co. and Kyushu Oil Co. and halted oil product shipments from three refineries as Wukong approached. The storm caused blackouts in 200 households in Miyazaki prefecture, Kyodo reported, citing Kyushu Electric Power Co.

Postponing Services

Kyushu Railway Co., postponed services on five lines including one that crosses Kyushu, the company said on its Web site. Long distance ferries connecting Kagoshima and Miyazaki with Osaka were also halted, the Asahi newspaper reported.

Typhoon Saomai last week brushed past the southern Japanese island chain of Okinawa on its way to China, where at least 214 people were killed and more than 50,000 houses damaged or destroyed.

At least 20 people died in September last year when Typhoon Nabi hit southwestern Japan. A record 10 typhoons and tropical storms hit Japan in 2004, killing scores of people and causing billions of dollars of damage.
___________________________________________________________________________

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