Typhoon may bring 80 cm of rain, strong winds to Tokyo

A powerful typhoon is forecast to bring up to 80 centimetres of rain and damaging winds to the Tokyo area and Japan’s Pacific coast this weekend, and the government is warning residents to stockpile necessities and leave high-risk places before it’s too dangerous.

Rugby World Cup matches and other events were cancelled on Saturday, and flights and train services were halted. In the town of Kiho southwest of Tokyo, shops were boarded up, boats were anchored and authorities checked coastal levees. Residents of Tokyo were buying batteries, bottled water, instant noodles and other food.

Meteorological Agency official Yasushi Kajihara said Typhoon Hagibis resembled a typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 with heavy rains and left a half-million houses flooded. More than 1,200 people died in that storm.

“In order to protect your own life and your loved ones, please try to start evacuating early before it gets dark and the storm becomes powerful,” Kajihara said at a news conference Friday.

Police, military on standby

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet held a disaster management meeting late Friday, vowing to do its utmost to protect people’s lives. He said 17,000 police and military troops are ready if needed for rescue operations.

“The typhoon could cause power outages, damage to infrastructure and significantly affect people’s lives,” Abe said.

Economy Minister Isshu Sugawara urged hospitals and other public facilities to check their backup power supplies.

Hagibis, which means speed in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with winds of 180 km/h gusting to 250 km/h on Friday afternoon, the weather agency said. It was expected to weaken as it hugs the Pacific coast of Japan’s main island on Saturday, making landfall south of Tokyo and passing out to sea by Sunday afternoon.

The meteorological agency cautioned that the typhoon could trigger waves as high as 13 metres in coastal cities through Saturday.

Up to 80 centimetres of rain were forecast in the capital region.

An evacuation advisory was issued early to 7,568 people on Oshima island in the typhoon’s projected path. Shimoda city, west of Tokyo, also issued an advisory to all of its 21,402 residents. Dozens of evacuation centres were opening in coastal towns in Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures.

The storm is expected to disrupt sports and holiday events on the three-day weekend, which includes Sports Day on Monday. Two Rugby World Cup matches — England vs. France and New Zealand vs. Italy — that were to be played Saturday were cancelled. Qualifying for a Formula One auto race in Suzuka was pushed to Sunday. And the Defence Ministry cut a three-day annual navy review to a single day on Monday.

England rugby fans pose on Friday for a photograph at the International Stadium Yokohama after the match between England and France was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. (Matthew Childs/Reuters)

All Nippon Airways grounded all of its domestic flights scheduled on Saturday at Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita international airports, while Japan Airlines cancelled all but its early morning flights at Tokyo airports.

Central Japan Railway Co. said it will cancel all bullet train service between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka.

The typhoon is spreading fear especially in Chiba, near Tokyo, which was hit by Typhoon Faxai last month and where homes still are damaged. That typhoon knocked down about 2,000 power poles, at one point leaving more than 900,000 homes without power, triggering concerns about the country’s aging infrastructure system built decades ago.

Chiba city distributed sandbags to shield against flooding and urged residents to make sure they have enough food and water and that their phones are charged. Workers placed huge protective nets over debris from the earlier storm still piled in parts of the city to keep it from being blown away by the new typhoon.

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