Japan: Thousands in shelters as typhoon approaches
Thousands of people sought shelter in emergency shelters in southwestern Japan on Sunday as powerful Typhoon Nanmadol made its way towards the region, prompting authorities to recommend the evacuation of nearly three million residents.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has issued a “special warning” for Kagoshima Prefecture, south of the large island of Kyushu, to warn residents of the high risk of severe weather.
As of Sunday morning, 25,680 households in Kagoshima and neighboring Miyazaki Prefecture were already without power while regional rail services, flights and ferry crossings were canceled, according to local utilities and transportation services.
The JMA has warned the region could face “unprecedented” danger from high winds, raging waves and torrential rain.
“Extreme caution is required,” Ryuta Kurora, head of the JMA’s forecasting unit, said on Saturday. “It’s a very dangerous typhoon.”
“The wind will be so strong that some houses could collapse,” Kurora told reporters, also warning of flooding and landslides.
So far, 2.9 million Kyushu residents have received urgent evacuation advice, according to the state Fire and Disaster Management Agency, and Kagoshima Prefectural officials said more than 8,500 people were already in shelters as of Sunday morning.
Mr Kurora urged residents to evacuate before the worst happens and warned that they should take precautions even in solid buildings.
– “Don’t go near the windows” –
“Please go to strong buildings before strong winds start blowing and do not go near windows even in strong buildings,” he said at a news conference overnight.
As of Sunday morning, high-speed train services in the area were suspended along with regional train lines, and state broadcaster NHK said at least 510 flights had been cancelled.
At the scene, an official from the Kagoshima department told AFP that no injuries or major damage had been reported so far, but that conditions were deteriorating.
“The rain and the wind are getting stronger. The rain is so heavy that you can’t really see what’s outside. Everything looks white,” he said.
At 9 a.m. (0000 GMT), the typhoon was 80 km southeast of the small Japanese island of Yakushima and the wind was blowing at 252 km/h. It is expected to land further north in Kyushu on Sunday evening before turning northeast and sweeping Japan’s main island of Honshu by Wednesday morning.
The typhoon season peaks in August through September in Japan, where it is marked by torrential rains that can cause sudden flooding and deadly landslides.
In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan during the Rugby World Cup, killing more than 100 people.
A year earlier, Typhoon Jebi paralyzed Osaka’s Kansai Airport, killing 14 people.
And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the rainy season.
Scientists estimate that climate change is increasing the intensity of storms and extreme weather events.
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