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Typhoon Hagibis: 1 dead, millions told to flee in Japan ahead of landfall
TOKYO – Millions in central and eastern Japan have been advised to seek safety with the worst yet to come, as the violent Typhoon Hagibis barrels towards the Japanese archipelago, and is expected to make landfall on Saturday (Oct 12) evening.
While the eye of the storm is still about 300km away as at 1pm local time (12pm in Singapore), violent gusts have already killed one man in his 40s after his mini truck was flipped over in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo.
Strong winds have blown off roofs of several houses, also in Chiba, injuring five people, of whom three are children.
Although eastern and central Japan are expected to take a direct hit from Typhoon Hagibis, its impact can also be felt in western Japan, where strong winds in Tokushima prefecture left an 85-year-old man slightly injured after he was blown off his feet.
Some 16,000 homes are without power, mostly in the Greater Tokyo region, the world’s most populous metropolitan area.
The storm has brought unprecedented rainfall to wide areas including the popular mountainous tourist spot Hakone, in Kanagawa prefecture, which was lashed with a record 452.5 millimetres of rain over 24 hours ending 11am.
It has triggered flooding and landslide warnings in wide areas, with several cities in central Japan’s Mie and Shizuoka prefectures already submerged as rivers burst their banks.
Footage shown on public broadcaster NHK showed rising waters in Tokyo’s Meguro and Tamagawa rivers.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has said that Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in Tagalog, may drench Japan with rainfall unseen since Typhoon Ida, or the Kanogawa Typhoon, in 1958. Tokyo had experienced a record 371.9mm precipitation over 24 hours in that storm, which had led to widespread flooding and landslides that killed 1,269 people.
While Tokyo is much more developed today, it remains vulnerable to Typhoon Hagibis, which may pack maximum gusts up to 216kph and lash the capital with up to 500mm of rainfall. Coastal Japan may also encounter tsunami-like waves of above 10 metres, the JMA said.
Japanese weather site Tenki.jp said that the high-rise buildings in central Tokyo may lead to a concentration of winds between skyscrapers, creating “localised gusts” that could cause even more damage.
It also warned of flooding in underground spaces such as subway stations, walkways and parking lots.
The ferocity of Typhoon Hagibis has brought Tokyo to a virtual standstill, as a largely anxious public heeded the weatherman’s call to be on high alert.
As of Friday, shelves at many supermarkets and hardware stores were wiped out of supplies such as groceries, bottled water, batteries and gas cylinders.
Nearly 2,000 domestic and international flights were grounded and train services have been completely halted as of Saturday afternoon, while several expressways have been closed.
Convenience store operator 7-Eleven said nearly 1,000 stores are closed on Saturday, while Family Mart has shut 700 outlets. Eateries including ubiquitous beef bowl chain Yoshinoya are shut, as are department stores like Isetan, Mitsukoshi and Takashimaya.
The typhoon has also forced the closure of the Tokyo Disney Resort in Chiba, as well as the Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. It has also forced two Rugby World Cup matches and a host of other events to be shelved, and disrupted the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend.
Automakers such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan have shut their factories, as has beer manufacturer Sapporo.
Typhoon Hagibis, which may make landfall as a “super tyhoon”, comes a month after Typhoon Faxai lashed eastern Japan with what had been record-breaking winds. The impact was largely felt in Chiba prefecture, which damaged 34,275 buildings and left as many as 935,000 homes without power at one point.
Past official projections have shown that up to 30 per cent of Tokyo’s central 23 wards may be flooded in the event of a “super typhoon”.
For the Greater Tokyo region, the worst of Typhoon Hagibis will pass overnight as it heads north-east towards the Pacific Ocean. But train services are only set to resume late on Sunday morning at the earliest, for authorities to assess the damage of the storm.