Powerful Typhoon Nanmadol hits the southwest coast of Japan
Powerful Typhoon Nanmadol slammed into Japan’s southwestern coast on Sunday, as authorities advised millions to seek shelter from strong winds and torrential rain.
“The eye of Typhoon Nanmadol made landfall near the city of Kagoshima around 19:00 (1000 GMT),” the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
The typhoon caused gusts of up to 234 km/h and had already poured up to 500 mm of rain over certain areas of the large island of Kyushu in less than 24 hours.
The JMA issued a “special warning” for Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in southern Kyushu, where at least 20,000 people were preparing to spend the night in shelters.
State broadcaster NHK, which compiles information from local authorities, said more than seven million people have been told to go to emergency shelters or to seek shelter in stable buildings.
“Please stay away from dangerous places and evacuate if you sense danger,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted after calling a cabinet meeting. “It will be dangerous to evacuate at night. Get to safety while it’s still light,” he added.
Evacuation notices are not mandatory in Japan, and authorities sometimes struggle to persuade residents to go to shelters before extreme weather conditions.
The JMA has warned the region could face “unprecedented” danger from high winds, raging waves and torrential rain.
“The areas affected by the storm are receiving rain of unprecedented intensity,” said Hiro Kato, director of the Weather Monitoring and Warning Center. “Especially in areas where there is a landslide alert, it is very likely that some kind of landslide is already occurring,” he added.
As of Sunday, almost 200,000 households in the affected departments were already without electricity, while regional rail services, flights and ferry crossings were canceled, according to public companies and local transport companies.
Some grocery stores that are normally open 24 hours a day, even in inclement weather, have also closed.
– “Visibility almost zero” –
“Utmost caution is needed,” 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 said, also warning of flooding and landslides.
Locally, a community official in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, said weather conditions were deteriorating very quickly.
“The wind has become extremely strong. The rain is also falling very heavily,” he told the AFP news agency. “Visibility is almost zero”.
On the coast, in the city of Minamata, fishing boats, moored for safety, floated on high waves while torrential rain spattered the boardwalk.
The typhoon, which weakened slightly as it approached Kyushu, is expected to move northeast and sweep across 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 struck Japan in the middle of the Rugby World Cup, killing more than a hundred 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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