A powerful tornado tore a path of destruction through a city in eastern Japan on Sunday afternoon, killing a teenager and injuring more than 50 others in what is the country's worst tornado in years, officials said on Monday.
The tornado touched down just before 1 p.m. local time on Sunday near Tsukuba, a city in Ibaraki Prefecture about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Tokyo. The violent tornado, caused by strong southerly winds which allowed cumulonimbus clouds to develop, was about 500 meters (1,640 feet) wide.
Video shown by public broadcaster NHK showed the rare tornado as it moved through neighborhoods, ripping roofs from apartment blocks, destroying entire buildings, picking up vehicles and dumping the debris across the streets. Japanese government officials said it was a 'miracle' there were no mass casualties.
Fire department officials said a 14-year-old boy was killed when he became trapped under a collapsed house. At least 52 others were injured as a result of the severe weather, although only about a dozen of them required hospitalization. Approximately 890 houses and other buildings were damaged.
A preliminary report by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) estimated the tornado was a strong F2 tornado, the fourth-highest rating on the Fujita Scale which is used to rate tornado intensity. This would put the estimated wind speed at between 181 to 253 kilometers (113 to 157 miles) per hour.
"According to the present report, the damage covered an area which is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) wide and approximately 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) in length," JMA said in its preliminary report on Monday. It added the damage caused by the tornado is still being assessed but said it does not expect to change the Fujita Scale rating.
Sunday's tornado was one of the worst ever to hit Japan, where tornadoes are rare but not unheard of. The country's deadliest tornado since official record-keeping began in 1961 happened in November 2006 when a violent tornado hit the remote town of Saroma on the northern island of Hokkaido. A tornado in Miyazaki Prefecture in September 1881 killed 16 while tornadoes in 1903, 1941 and 1957 killed between 8 and 12 people.