Powerful typhoon rumbles over Japanese island of Okinawa

Story highlights

  • Typhoon Sanba is on track to hit South Korea
  • It made landfall in Okinawa earlier SundayThe eye of the storm is nearly half the island's length
  • The eye of the storm was nearly half the island's length
  • Sanba has the same intensity as a Category 3 hurricane

Typhoon Sanba was aiming squarely at South Korea early Sunday after passing over the Japanese island of Okinawa, according to regional forecasters.

It made landfall in northeastern Okinawa around 6:30 a.m. Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET Saturday) with an eye that was nearly half the island's length.

There were no immediate reports of damage.

As of 9:50 p.m. ET, Samba was moving to the north at 30 kph (18 mph), the Japan Meteorological Association said.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of estimated winds of 194 kph (120 mph) and gusts nearing 241 kph (149 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, the U.S. military agency responsible for issuing tropical storm warnings in the Pacific Ocean.

Sanba is on track to make a direct hit on South Korea in a couple of days, the Korean Meteorological Association predicted, before moving up the Chinese coast.

People in Okinawa and along the rest of the Ryukyu Island chain took serious precautions ahead of the storm.

The infrastructure on the island is designed to withstand powerful storms, since the island is in an area of the western Pacific Ocean where typhoons are frequent. But storm surge could prove to be a problem for residents.

"It's a large storm, and it's going to have a fairly wide-reaching effect," CNN International weather anchor Jenny Harrison said.

In the city of Ginowan in southern Okinawa on Saturday afternoon, skies were gray with dark clouds in the distance, according to video from CNN iReporter Kathryn Spoor.

Even though it had weakened since Friday when it was briefly classified as a super typhoon, Sanba now has the same intensity as a Category 3 hurricane, meteorologists say.

A Category 3, on a scale of 1 to 5, is a major hurricane with winds ranging from 111 to 129 mph.

The storm is expected to have a far-reaching effect. It could cause serious flooding in the Philippine capital of Manila, for instance.

Sanba is forecast to make a second landfall in mainland South Korea around noon local time Monday. It could also strike southern mainland Japan.

Last month, Typhoon Bolaven killed more than 60 people on the Korean peninsula. Bolaven had also swept over Okinawa, which escaped relatively unscathed.

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