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Typhoon Songda churns towards Tokyo

TOKYO – Typhoon Songda churned northeast along Pacific coasts in southern Japan Sunday, bringing with it heavy rains and staying on course to hit Tokyo as it weakened, weather officials said.

It was expected to be downgraded to a depression late Sunday but could still dump torrential rain on the northeast coast, which was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

A total of 57 people suffered storm-related injuries on the southern Okinawan islands, police said. Of those, five were seriously hurt.

The typhoon, packing winds of up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, was located about 100 kilometers off the southwestern tip of Shikoku island at noon (O300 GMT), the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Agency official Takeo Tanaka said the storm, losing strength, could reach Tokyo at around 9:00 am (0000 GMT) Monday.

It was not clear whether it would directly hit the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, more than 200 kilometres northeast of the capital.

But the typhoon has already brought heavy rain to the Fukushima region, prompting fears that run-off water may wash away radioactive materials from land into the Pacific Ocean.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has been pouring synthetic resins over the complex to prevent radioactive deposits from being swept away by winds or rain.

3 killed, 8 injured in China chemical plant blast

BEIJING – Authorities said a blast at a chemical plant in eastern China has killed three people and injured eight others.

The government of Zibo city in Shandong province said in a statement Sunday that police were investigating the cause of the explosion at a chemical plant owned by Shandong Baoyuan Chemical Co. Ltd.

The statement said the Saturday night blast killed two people at the site while a third person died later at a hospital. Eight other people who suffered slight injuries were being treated at a hospital.

Industrial accidents are common in China due to lax regulations and safety controls.