Powerful typhoon makes landfall southwest of Tokyo

A heavy downpour and strong winds pounded Tokyo and surrounding areas on Saturday as a powerful typhoon forecast as the worst in six decades made landfall southwest of the city, with streets and train stations deserted and shops shuttered.

Store shelves were left bare after people stocked up on water and food ahead of Typhoon Hagibis, which came ashore in Shizuoka prefecture.

The Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of heavy rainfall in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, including Gunma, Saitama and Kanagawa.

“Be ready for rainfall of the kind that you have never experienced,” said agency official Yasushi Kajihara, adding that areas usually safe from disasters may prove vulnerable.

“Take all measures necessary to save your life,” he said.

Taped-up windows and bags filled with water are seen here on Saturday at a convenience store in the Shinagawa district of Tokyo. (Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Kajihara said people who live near rivers must take shelter on the second floor or higher of any sturdy building if an officially designated evacuation centre wasn’t easily accessible. He also expressed fears that disaster may have already struck in some areas.

Hagibis, which means “speed” in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with maximum sustained winds of 162 km/h, according to the meteorological agency. It was expected to make landfall near Tokyo later Saturday, unleashing up to 55 millimetres of rain before blowing out to sea.

People cross a street as it rains in the Shibuya district of Tokyo on Saturday. (Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press)

The storm brought heavy rainfall in wide areas of Japan ahead of its landfall, including Shizuoka and Mie prefectures, southwest of Tokyo, as well as Chiba to the north, which saw power outages and damaged homes in a typhoon last month.

Under gloomy skies, a tornado ripped through Chiba on Saturday, overturning a car in the city of Ichihara and killing a man inside, city official Tatsuya Sakamaki said. Five people were also injured when the tornado ripped through a house. Their injuries were not life-threatening, Sakamaki said.

The heavy rain caused rivers to swell, flipped anchored boats and whipped up sea waters in a dangerous surge along the coast, flooding some residential neighbourhoods and leaving people to wade in ankle-deep waters and cars floating.

A destroyed house and vehicle are seen following in Chiba, near Tokyo, on Saturday. (Katsuya Miyagawa/Kyodo News via AP)

In Shizuoka prefecture, one of two men who went missing in the Nishikawa River was rescued, Gotemba city official Fumihiko Katsumata said. Firefighters said the two men were working at a river canal to try to control overflowing when they were swept away.

Swollen rivers, mudslide warnings

Yusuke Ikegaya, a Shizuoka resident, was lucky and evacuated to safety. He said he was surprised because he had been told the typhoon would make landfall in the afternoon but noticed the nearby river about to overflow in the morning.

“In the 28 years of my life, this is the first time I’ve had to evacuate even before a typhoon has landed,” he said.

Authorities also warned of mudslides, common in mountainous Japan.

Public broadcaster NHK said Shiroyama dam in Kanagawa prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, may release some of its waters, which were nearing limits. An overflooded dam is likely to cause greater damage, and so releasing some water gradually is a standard emergency measure.

Flights, train services halted

Rugby World Cup matches, concerts and other events in the area were cancelled, while flights were grounded and train services halted. Authorities acted quickly, with warnings issued earlier in the week, including urging people to stay indoors.

Some 17,000 police and military troops were called up, standing ready for rescue operations.

Residents taped up their apartment windows in case they shattered. TV talks shows showed footage of household items like a slipper bashing through glass when hurled by winds.

Evacuation advisories were issued for risk areas, including Shimoda city, west of Tokyo. Dozens of evacuation centres were opening in coastal towns, and people were resting on gymnasium floors, saying they hoped their homes were still there after the storm passed.

High waves caused by Typhoon Hagibis break on the shores in Kumano, Mie Prefecture, Japan, on Saturday. (Toru Hanai/Associated Press)

The typhoon disrupted a three-day weekend that includes Sports Day on Monday. Qualifying for a Formula One auto race in Suzuka was pushed to Sunday. The Defence Ministry cut a three-day annual navy review to a single day on Monday.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded most domestic and international flights at the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports. Central Japan Railway Co. cancelled bullet-train service between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka. Tokyo Disneyland was closed. Ginza department stores and smaller shops throughout Tokyo were shuttered.

A typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 left more than 1,200 people dead and half a million houses flooded.

 

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