Typhoon lashes Japanese capital, one dead, power, transport disrupted

Passengers are stranded after railways and subway operators suspended their services due to Typhoon Faxai, at Narita airport in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – One of the strongest typhoons to hit eastern Japan in recent years struck just east of the capital Tokyo on Monday, killing one woman, with record-breaking winds and stinging rain damaging buildings and disrupting transport.

More than 160 flights were canceled and scores of train lines closed for hours, snarling the morning commute for millions in a greater Tokyo area with a population of some 36 million.

Direct train service between Narita airport and the capital remained severely limited into the evening, with thousands of irritated travelers packed into a key transport hub for both the Rugby World Cup starting later this month and next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“They simply had no contingency plan…,” one weary traveler who lives in Tokyo said of the scene, in which people crowded the exit areas and food ran out in airport stores.

“They let planes land … and thousands of passengers were disgorged into an airport that was cut off – no buses, no JR trains. The only connection was a private train running every half hour halfway to Tokyo.”

The man, who said he arrived just before 4 p.m. local time and only caught a bus at 7:30 p.m. after standing in line, added: “My wife said: what if this happens during the Olympics?”

Typhoon Faxai, a Lao woman’s name, slammed ashore near the city of Chiba shortly before dawn, bringing with it wind gusts of 207 kmh (128 mph), the strongest ever recorded in Chiba, national broadcaster NHK said.

A woman in her fifties was confirmed dead after she was found in a Tokyo street and taken to hospital. Footage from a nearby security camera showed she had been smashed against a building by strong winds, NHK reported.

Another woman in her 20s was rescued from her house in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, after it was partly crushed when a metal pole from a golf driving range fell on it. She was seriously injured.

A satellite broadcast television receiving antenna, which was blown away by strong winds caused by Typhoon Faxai, is seen on a street in Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

A satellite broadcast television receiving antenna, which was blown away by strong winds caused by Typhoon Faxai, is seen on a street in Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

“There was a huge grinding noise, I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then I looked up and saw a big hole in the roof, but I was so keyed up I couldn’t figure out what had happened,” a neighbor said.

Some minor landslides occurred and a bridge was washed away, while as many as 930,000 houses lost power at one point, NHK said, including the entire city of Kamogawa. But the number of homes without power had dropped to 840,000 by early Monday afternoon, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

Some concrete electric poles were snapped off at their bases, while electricity towers in Chiba were toppled over. Some panels of a floating solar power plant southeast of Tokyo were on fire.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said a cooling tower at its research reactor at Oarai, which has not been in operation since 2006 and is set to be decommissioned, had fallen, but there was no radiation leakage, impact on workers or the surrounding environment.

A Sony Corp <6758.T> spokesman said operations at its plant in Kisarazu, southeast of Tokyo, were suspended due to power outages. The company could not say when the plant, which assembles PlayStation gaming consoles, would reopen.

Two Nissan factories west of Tokyo, including its Oppama plant, suspended operations due to flooding, NHK said.

DESERTED STREETS

About four to five typhoons make landfall in Japan every year, but it is unusual for them to do so near Tokyo. NHK said Faxai was the strongest storm in the Tokyo area in several years.

Streets normally busy with commuters walking or bicycling were deserted, with winds just east of Tokyo shaking buildings.

Metal signs were torn from buildings, trucks overturned, the metal roof of a petrol station torn off and glass display cases destroyed, scattering sidewalks with broken glass.

Trees were uprooted throughout the metropolitan area, some falling on train tracks to further snarl transport.

Some 2,000 people were ordered to leave their homes at one point because of the danger of landslides, NHK said.

Parts of the high-speed Tokaido Shinkansen train line were halted but service resumed after several hours. It took hours for other lines to resume, packing stations with impatient commuters fanning themselves in the humid air.

Temperatures shot up to unseasonably hot levels in the wake of the storm, prompting authorities to warn of the danger of heatstroke.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies, Chris Gallagher, Linda sieg, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Makiko Yamazaki; Editing by Robert Birsel/Mark Heinrich)

Putin says Russia will make new missiles, warns of arms race

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 5, 2019. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Vladimir Soldatkin

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would produce missiles that were banned under a landmark Cold-War era nuclear pact that ended last month, but that Moscow would not deploy them unless the United States did so first.

Speaking at an economic forum in Russia’s Far East, Putin said Moscow had urged the United States to de-escalate a spiraling arms race between the former Cold War foes, but that Washington had not responded.

The Russian leader said he was concerned by U.S. talk of deploying missiles in Japan and South Korea, a deployment he said would cover parts of Russian territory.

Tensions over nuclear arms control have been rising after Washington formally pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) pact last month accusing Russia of violating it, allegations Moscow denied.

Last month the United States tested a conventionally-configured cruise missile that hit a target more than 500 km away, a test that would have been prohibited under the INF.

The pact banned land-based missiles with a range of 310-3,400 miles, reducing the ability of both countries to launch a nuclear strike at short notice.

“…Of course we will produce such missiles,” Putin told an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok. He repeated a pledge by Moscow not to deploy any new missiles unless the United States does so first.

“We are not happy about the fact that the head of the Pentagon said that the United States intends to deploy them in Japan and South Korea, this saddens us and is a cause for certain concern,” Putin said.

Putin said he offered U.S. President Donald Trump in a recent phone call the chance to buy one of the hypersonic nuclear weapons Moscow is developing. He said Trump spurned the offer and replied that Washington was making its own.

Putin said he feared that an arms race could spread into space and that Washington could develop a new space weapon.

(Additional reporting by Andrey Kuzmin, Maria Vasilyeva; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Japan says North Korea developing warheads to penetrate missile defenses

A missile is fired during the test of a multiple rocket launcher in this undated photo released on August 25, 2019 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters) – Pyongyang appears to be developing warheads to penetrate a ballistic missile shield defending Japan, the country’s defense chief said on Tuesday, pointing to the irregular trajectories of the latest missiles launched by North Korea.

Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told a news conference that Japan believes the rockets were a new short-range ballistic missile, according to a ministry spokesman who confirmed his comments carried by domestic media.

Recent short-range missile tests by Pyongyang have stoked alarm in neighboring Japan even as U.S. President Donald Trump has dismissed the launches as unimportant.

Saturday’s test firings came a day after Seoul said it was ending a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, amid a worsening spat over wartime forced labor.

Iwaya and other Japanese officials called Seoul’s decision “irrational” as the threat posed by North Korea grows.

Japan and the United States have Aegis destroyers deployed in the Sea of Japan armed with interceptor missiles designed to destroy warheads in space. Japan also plans to build two land-based Aegis batteries to bolster its ballistic missile shield.

Those defense systems, however, are designed to counter projectiles on regular and therefore, predictable, trajectories, and any variation in flight path would make interception trickier.

Detailed analysis of the latest North Korean launches was underway with the United States, an official of South Korea’s defense ministry said on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

G7 or G5? Trump and Johnson add unpredictability to French summit

A view shows the beach and Le Bellevue summit venue ahead of the G7 Summit in the French coastal resort of Biarritz, France, August 21, 2019. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

By John Irish and Marine Pennetier

PARIS (Reuters) – Brexit Britain’s overtures to U.S. President Donald Trump risk further complicating the search for common ground this weekend at a Group of Seven summit already clouded by transatlantic rifts over trade, Iran and climate change.

The summit host, President Emmanuel Macron of France, has set the bar low for Biarritz to avoid a repeat of the fiasco last year when Trump threw Canada’s G7 summit into disarray by leaving early, scotching the final communique.

Macron, an ardent europhile and staunch defender of multilateralism, will count on incremental advances in areas where a united front can be presented, with the meeting, which runs from Saturday to Monday, officially focusing on the broad theme of reducing inequality.

On hot-button issues, they will, when necessary, have to agree to disagree.

“We have to adapt formats. There will be no final communique, but coalitions, commitments and follow-ups,” Macron said. “We must assume that, on one subject or another, a member of the club might not sign up.”

The G7 groups the United States, France, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada, and the European Union also attends. Macron has also invited the leaders of Australia, Burkina Faso, Chile, Egypt, India, Senegal, Rwanda and South Africa, in order to widen the debate on inequality.

TOUGH TOPICS

But the tougher discussions lie elsewhere. The Sino-U.S. trade war has spurred fears of a global economic slump; European powers are struggling to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran; and Trump has shown little enthusiasm for France’s push for a universal tax on digital multinationals such as Google and Amazon, and turned his back on efforts in Europe and around the globe to limit carbon emissions to slow climate change.

The crisis in Kashmir and street protests in Hong Kong may also be touched on during the talks in France’s Atlantic coast surfing capital, where some 13,000 police will be drafted in to prevent any violent anti-globalization demonstrations.

“There’s no doubt that we will discuss how trade frictions could affect the global economy,” a Japanese government official said. “But it is difficult to deliver messages to the outside since a communique won’t be issued.”

Strained relations between the United States and its top allies mean that where once they were in agreement, they now seek the lowest common denominator.

“It won’t be productive to push something that someone — whether it’s America or some other country — would not agree to do,” the Japanese official added.

Moreover, Italy’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday, Canada is heading for an election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s influence on the world stage is waning ahead of her departure, and Britain is probably on the verge of either leaving the EU or a snap election.

POLITICAL NITROGLYCERINE

One unknown is where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will position himself, making his debut on the global stage at a summit that will lay bare new realities as Britain’s influence in Europe collapses and its dependency on the United States grows.

With less than three months to go before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU – with or without a divorce deal, according to Johnson – his government has sought to cozy up to Trump’s White House with a view to future trade deals.

Francois Heisbourg of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said the combination of two personalities “not well-known for their self-control” was “political nitroglycerine”.

He said it might be entertaining, “but if it actually gets in the way of more substantive proceedings, that would be another story”.

While Johnson will want to avoid crossing a volatile Trump and putting trade ties at risk, analysts say, he will also be wary of alienating himself from other leaders who have a more multilateral approach to world politics.

One French diplomat who declined to be named said Paris was curious to see how the Trump-Johnson dynamic played out in Biarritz:

“Even with Brexit in the background, we still have the sense that the British reflex when it comes to international crises is to turn to us and the Germans first.”

(Additional reporting by Lucien Libert in Paris and Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Editing by Richard Lough and Kevin Liffey)

Japanese researchers build robotic tail to keep elderly upright

An elderly woman prays at a chapel of the San Rafael nursing home in Arecibo, Puerto Rico February 14, 2018. Picture taken February 14, 2018. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

Millions of years after the ancestors of humans evolved to lose their tails, a research team at Japan’s Keio University have built a robotic one they say could help unsteady elderly people keep their balance.

Dubbed Arque, the grey one-meter device mimics tails such as those of cheetahs and other animals used to keep their balance while running and climbing, according to the Keio team.

“The tail keeps balance like a pendulum,” said Junichi Nabeshima, a graduate student and researcher at the university’s Embodied Media Project, displaying the robotic tail attached to his waist with a harness.

“When a human tilts their body one way, the tail moves in the opposite direction.”

As Japan greys it is leading the industrial world in seeking ways to keep its aging population mobile and productive.

While other nations have turned to immigrant workers to replenish a shrinking workforce, less welcoming Japan has focused more on a technological solution.

The robotic tail, which uses four artificial muscles and compressed air to move in eight directions, will remain in the lab for now, however, as researchers look for ways to make it more flexible, Nabeshima said.

Apart from helping the elderly get around, the team are also looking at industrial applications for the artificial appendage, such as a balance aid for warehouse workers carrying heavy loads.

“I think it would be nice to incorporate this further developed prosthetic tail into daily life, when one seeks a little more help balancing,” Nabeshima said.

(Reporting by Megu Jones; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Russia, South Korea trade conflicting claims over alleged airspace intrusion

A Russian A-50 military aircraft flies near the disputed islands called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea, in this handout picture taken by Japan Air Self-Defence Force and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan July 23, 2019. Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

By Maria Kiselyova and Hyonhee Shin

MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) – Russia’s embassy in Seoul on Wednesday said that Moscow had not apologized for an alleged airspace violation the previous day after South Korea said that a Russian attache had expressed “deep regret” and blamed malfunctioning equipment.

A Russian military aircraft entered airspace near a group of islets claimed by both South Korea and Japan on Tuesday, during a long-range joint air patrol with Chinese jets, according to South Korea and Japan, which both scrambled fighter jets in response.

South Korean warplanes fired flares and hundreds of warning shots near the Russian aircraft, and the incident triggered a round of diplomatic protests by countries in the region.

An unidentified Russian military attache in Seoul told South Korean officials on Tuesday that the plane appeared to have “entered an unplanned area due to a device malfunction”, said Yoon Do-han, South Korea’s presidential press secretary.

“Russia has conveyed its deep regret over the incident and said its defense ministry would immediately launch an investigation and take all necessary steps,” Yoon said.

“The officer said such a situation would have never occurred if it followed the initially planned route.”

Hours later, Russia’s embassy in Seoul said there had been no apology.

“The Russian side did not make an official apology,” the embassy in Seoul said, adding it had noted many inaccuracies in the comments by South Korea, Interfax reported.

The incident comes at a delicate time for a region that has for years been overshadowed by hostility between the United States and North Korea and has recently seen a flare-up in tension between South Korea and Japan.

Russia’s public statements on the issue have not mentioned any technical problems, nor has Russia announced any investigation or acknowledged a violation of South Korean airspace.

Yoon said in a later briefing that after the attache admitted a possible mistake and expressed regret, which was taken as Moscow’s official position, Russia “altered” its account by sending a document stating that it did not violate any airspace.

Russia also accused South Korean fighter jets of threatening the safety of Russian aircraft by interfering with their flight and failing to communicate, Yoon said.

Seoul’s defense ministry said Russia was “distorting the truth” and it had evidence to support its claim.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request to clarify the conflicting accounts.

“The document says that they might take a responsive measure if similar flights by the South Korean Air Force recur,” Yoon said.

An official at the defense ministry earlier told reporters it believed the intrusion could not have resulted from a system error.

He did not elaborate, but another official told Reuters that the two countries plan to hold working-level talks on Thursday in Seoul to clarify what happened.

While troops and naval ships from Russia and China have taken part in joint war games before, they have not conducted such air patrols in the Asia-Pacific region together, according to Russia’s Ministry of Defense.

China’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that China and Russia did not enter the airspace of any other country during their joint patrols on Tuesday.

South Korea and Japan scrambled fighter jets because both claim sovereignty over the disputed islets called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

The two U.S. allies are mired in a deepening political and trade dispute, which fanned concerns that it might undercut three-way security cooperation to fend off North Korea’s nuclear threats.

The incident also coincided with the visit of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton to South Korea.

Bolton and his counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, discussed the suspected airspace breach during a meeting on Wednesday and vowed close consultations in case of more such incidents, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova in Moscow and Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Additional reporting by Joyce Lee and Josh Smith in Seoul, and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Editing by Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie)

First Russian-Chinese air patrol in Asia-Pacific draws shots from South Korea

A Russian TU-95 bomber flies over East China Sea in this handout picture taken by Japan Air Self-Defence Force and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan July 23, 2019. Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn and Joyce Lee

MOSCOW/SEOUL (Reuters) – Russia carried out what it said was its first long-range joint air patrol in the Asia-Pacific region with China on Tuesday, a mission that triggered hundreds of warning shots, according to South Korean officials, and a strong protest from Japan.

The flight by two Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and two Chinese H-6 bombers, backed up according to Korean and Japanese officials by a Russian A-50 early warning plane, marks a notable ramping-up of military cooperation between Beijing and Moscow.

That is something likely to worry politicians from Washington to Tokyo and could complicate relations and raise tension in a region that has for years been overshadowed by hostility between the United States and North Korea.

While troops and naval ships from Russia and China have taken part in joint war games before, they have not, according to Russia’s Ministry of Defence, conducted such air patrols in the Asia-Pacific region together until Tuesday.

“The joint patrol was carried out with the aim of deepening Russian-Chinese relations within our all-encompassing partnership, of further increasing cooperation between our armed forces, and of perfecting their capabilities to carry out joint actions and of strengthening global strategic security,” the ministry said in a statement.

Seoul and Tokyo, who both scrambled jets to intercept the Russo-Chinese mission, accused Russia and China of violating their airspaces, an allegation Moscow and Beijing denied.

South Korean warplanes fired hundreds of warning shots towards the Russian A-50 military aircraft, defense officials in Seoul said, saying it had entered South Korean airspace.

It was the first time a Russian military aircraft had violated South Korean airspace, an official at the South Korean Ministry of National Defence said in Seoul.

The Russian and Chinese bombers had entered the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (KADIZ) together early on Tuesday, the South Korean defense ministry said.

The separate Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft later twice violated South Korean airspace over Dokdo – an island that is controlled by Seoul and claimed by both South Korea and Japan, which calls it Takeshima – just after 9 a.m. (midnight GMT Monday), according to the South Korean military.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said it did not recognize South Korea’s KADIZ, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the area was not territorial airspace and that all countries enjoyed freedom of movement in it.

South Korean fighters did not fire any warning shots toward Russia’s two bombers, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement, which made no mention of any A-50 aircraft.

It accused the two South Korean F-16 fighter planes of carrying out “unprofessional maneuvers” and of crossing the path of the Russian bombers and not communicating with them.

“It was not the first time that South Korean pilots tried unsuccessfully to prevent Russian aircraft from flying over the neutral waters of the Sea of ​​Japan,” the Russian ministry said.

If the Russian pilots had felt any threat to their safety, their response would have been swift, it added.

A South Korean defense ministry spokesman did not directly address the Russian accusation of reckless behavior but said that South Korea had never said the Tu-95 bombers had violated its airspace.

South Korea’s top security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, lodged a strong objection with Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, asking the council to assess the incident and take appropriate action, South Korea’s presidential office said.

“We take a very grave view of this situation and, if it is repeated, we will take even stronger action,” Chung said, according to South Korea’s presidential office.

“TACTICAL ACTION”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Deputy Chief of Mission Maxim Volkov and Chinese Ambassador Qiu Guohong to lodge a stern protest and strongly urge them to prevent a recurrence, said ministry spokesman Kim In-chul.

Separately, Japan, which said it had also scrambled fighter aircraft to intercept the Russian and Chinese planes, lodged a complaint with both South Korea and Russia over the incident, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

Tokyo criticized South Korea for taking action against a Russian plane over what Japan says is its airspace.

“In light of Japan’s stance regarding sovereignty over Takeshima, the fact that the South Korean military aircraft carried out warning shots is totally unacceptable and extremely regrettable,” Suga told reporters.

The South Korean jets loosed about 360 rounds of ammunition during the incident, an official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

“The South Korean military took tactical action including dropping flares and firing warning shots,” the South Korean Defence Ministry said.

A South Korean defense official told Reuters that the Russian aircraft did not respond in any threatening way.

It left South Korean airspace but then entered it again about 20 minutes later, prompting the South Koreans to fire more warning shots.

(Additional reporting by Josh Smith in Seoul, by Kiyoshi Takenaka, Makiko Yamazaki and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Cate Cadell in Beijing, and Maria Kiselyova and Tom Balmforth in Moscow; Editing by Paul Tait and Mark Heinrich)

Suspected Japanese arsonist is ex-convict who believed studio stole his novel: media

A man placed flowers near the torced Kyoto Animation building to mourn the victims of the arson attack, in Kyoto, Japan, July 19, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Tim Kelly

KYOTO, Japan (Reuters) – A man suspected of torching an animation studio and killing 33 people in Japan’s worst mass killing in two decades had been convicted of robbery and carried out the attack because he believed his novel had been plagiarized, media said on Friday.

Public broadcaster NHK, which identified the 41-year-old man as Shinji Aoba, citing police, said he served time in prison for robbing a convenience store east of Tokyo in 2012 and, after his release, lived in facilities for former convicts. He had also received care for mental illness, NHK said.

The attack on Thursday in the ancient capital of Kyoto, targeting the well-known animation studio, Kyoto Animation, killed 33 people and 10 were in critical condition, authorities said. Most of the dead were killed by carbon dioxide inhalation, NHK said.

It was the worst mass killing in a country with one of the world’s lowest crime rates since a suspected arson attack in Tokyo killed 44 people in 2001.

Aoba wheeled a trolley carrying at least one bucket of petrol to the entrance of the building before dousing the area, shouting “die” and setting it ablaze on Thursday, broadcaster Nippon TV said, citing police.

“I did it,” Aoba told police when he was detained, Kyodo news said, adding that he had started the fire because he believed the studio had stolen his novel.

Police declined to comment. Aoba was under anesthesia because of burns he suffered and police were unable to question him, Nippon TV said.

He “seemed to be discontented, he seemed to get angry, shouting something about how he had been plagiarized”, a woman who saw him being detained told reporters.

“I imagine many of the people who died were in their twenties,” said 71-year-old Kozo Tsujii, fighting back tears after laying flowers near the studio in the rain. He said he drives by the studio on his daily commute.

“I’m just very, very sad that these people who are so much younger than me passed away so prematurely,” he said.

The studio had about 160 employees with an average age of 33, according to its website. That makes it a relatively young company in rapidly graying Japan.

Tributes to the victims lit up social media, with world leaders and Apple Inc’s &lt;AAPL.O&gt; chief executive offering condolences.

‘I’LL KILL YOU’

Aoba, a resident of the Tokyo suburb of Saitama, some 480 km (300 miles) east of the ancient capital of Kyoto, was believed to have bought two 20-liter cans at a hardware store and prepared the petrol in a park near the studio, Nippon TV said.

He traveled to the area by train, the broadcaster said.

NHK showed footage of him lying on his back as he spoke to a police officer at the time of his detention, shoeless and with apparent burns on his right leg below the knee.

He had no connection with Kyoto Animation, NHK said.

None of the victims’ identities had been disclosed as of Friday. There were 74 people inside the building when the fire started, Kyodo said.

Last month, Aoba had a confrontation when he complained to a neighbor about noise in the apartment building, the Mainichi newspaper reported.

When the neighbor said the noise was coming from another apartment, Aoba grabbed the neighbor’s shirt and said: “Shut up, I’ll kill you,” the newspaper said.

BODIES PILED UP

The fire that tore through the building spread so fast not only because it was fueled by petrol, but because it was funneled up a spiral staircase and there were no sprinklers to douse it, experts said.

Nineteen of the 33 who died were found on a staircase leading up to the roof from the third floor, bodies piled on top of each other, Kyodo said, citing authorities.

Firefighters arriving soon after the fire began found the door to the roof was shut but could be opened from the outside, Kyodo said.

The victims may have rushed up the stairs to escape the blaze and found themselves unable to open the door, it added.

The fire wasn’t put out until early on Friday.

Police investigators searched the smoldering shell of the building for evidence in an investigation that Kyodo said covered suspected arson, murder and attempted murder.

Two petrol cans, a rucksack and a trolley were found near the site, and television images showed what appeared to be five long knives laid out by police as possible evidence outside the three-story building.

Kyoto Animation, in a quiet suburb about 20 minutes by train from the center of Kyoto, produces popular “anime” series such as the “Sound! Euphonium”.

Its “Free! Road to the World – The Dream” movie is due for release this month.

“I love fighting games, all things about Japan,” said Blake Henderson, a 26-year-old Alabama native and fan of the anime studio who had come to the scene of the blaze to pay his respects.

“I love Japan so much and this one incident won’t change my entire perspective on Japan. But it still hurts.”

(Reporting by Tim Kelly in KYOTO and Chang-Ran Kim, Linda Sieg, William Mallard, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Elaine Lies in TOKYO; Writing by William Mallard and David Dolan; Editing by Michael Perry and Nick Macfie)

Japan, hit by torrential rains, orders over one million to evacuate

A pedestrian walks through heavy rain in Kirishima, Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY.

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan ordered more than one million people on the southernmost island of Kyushu to take shelter in evacuation centers and other safe areas on Wednesday as heavy rains triggered small landslides and threatened to cause widespread flooding.

Some parts of southern Kyushu have received over 1,000 mm (39.4 inches) of rain since Friday, about as much as usually falls in the whole month of July, broadcaster NHK said.

The Futami River is swollen due to heavy rain in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, July 3, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

Forecasters expect as much as 300 mm more rainfall in some areas by Thursday evening.

Evacuation orders were issued for 1.1 million residents of Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures at the southern tip of Kyushu, NHK said. Some 930,000 more were advised to leave.

Only some 3,500 people had evacuated as of 4:00 p.m. (0700 GMT), according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

“I live alone next to a river, and it’s scary to think of water rising,” one woman in an evacuation center told NHK. Another person said the volume of rainfall was “terrible”.

Television footage showed rivers filled with fast-moving brown water, but none had overflowed their banks as of Wednesday evening, although one low dike had broken and efforts were being made to repair it with sandbags.

Several small landslides were reported, including one that swept away two cars and damaged a pre-fabricated shed. A mother and child in another car swept away by a landslide sustained minor injuries.

“The rain was just flowing all over the rice fields,” one woman told NHK.

A Twitter user posted a photo of a road covered with brown water. “Whoa, the road I take to work is a mess,” the user wrote.

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said residents should “take steps to protect their lives, including early evacuation,” and he ordered the military to prepare for rescue operations.

Abe was criticized for the government’s slow response in July a year ago, when heavy rains triggered landslides and floods, killing more than 200 people in Japan’s worst weather disaster in 36 years.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Linda Sieg, Yuri Harada and Elaine Lies; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Tom Hogue)

Explainer: What extra U.S. farm products could China buy?

FILE PHOTO: Corn is loaded onto a truck as a silo is emptied at a farm in Tiskilwa, Illinois, U.S., July 6, 2018. REUTERS/Daniel Acker/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has agreed to make unspecified new purchases of farm products from the United States, President Donald Trump said after meeting his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Japan.

China was the top buyer on average of U.S. agriculture exports from 2010 to 2017, making purchases worth $21.6 billion a year, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed.

While investors await details of the agreement and confirmation from China, analysts and traders say there are limits to how much more China can buy from the country that is typically one of its top suppliers of soybeans, grains and meat.

Below are details of where future Chinese purchases could rise.

SOYBEANS

The United States is usually China’s No. 2 supplier of soybeans, a product likely to make the list of new purchases even though an African swine fever epidemic in China has dented demand from Chinese pig farmers.

Soybean imports in the 2019/20 crop year are forecast by USDA at 87 million tonnes.

The USDA reported a large soybean sale on Friday of 544,000 tonnes to China, an apparent goodwill gesture a day before Trump and Xi met for the first time in seven months.

There could be a few more similar purchases in coming months as tensions ease, said Darin Friedrichs, senior Asia commodity analyst at INTL FCStone.

But any large deals were expected to be conditional on progress in talks and would be made over a long timeframe, he added.

GRAINS

China has typically been the top buyer of U.S. sorghum and, despite a 25% U.S. trade tariff on the grain, it has still bought a few cargoes in recent months.

But sorghum prices are rising, making it less viable for Chinese buyers to import the grain when they already face such a high tariff.

Demand for sorghum and corn, whose prices have climbed due to adverse weather conditions, were both very weak because of the African swine fever epidemic, said a trader with a state-owned firm who was not allowed to be identified.

“I don’t think chances are high” for more purchases, he said.

Regarding Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles (DDGS), China has announced it would keep anti-dumping duties on the feed ingredient, which the trader said made it clear Beijing did not plan to boost its imports.

Purchases of U.S. wheat have historically been relatively small. Beijing has been pushing Chinese growers to plant more high-quality wheat and boosting imports would undermine this policy, said a Chinese trader, who was not allowed to be identified.

ETHANOL

U.S. ethanol imports could feature in upcoming purchases, said Friedrichs, helping Trump win support from ethanol producers, one of his voter bases which has been hit by waning Chinese demand and U.S. initiatives affecting the industry.

But Chinese trade tariffs are prohibitive and there are no government reserves for the biofuel, limiting the amount that could be purchased by state buyers under Beijing’s orders, said an industry source who was not allowed to be quoted.

PORK

China, which usually accounts for half the world’s pork production, is expected to need all the pork it can find abroad as African swine fever devastates domestic farms.

It has already made some large purchases from the United States, even with U.S. trade tariffs of 50% in place.

Still, much bigger exports of pork to China threaten to drive up prices in the United States, which would hurt U.S. consumers and runs the risk of backfiring on Trump as he seeks re-election, Friedrichs said.

(Reporting by Dominique Patton and Hallie Gu; Editing by Edmund Blair)