MINAMATA: Thousands of people took refuge in shelters in southwestern Japan on Sunday (Sep 18) as powerful Typhoon Nanmadol bore down on Japan’s southernmost main island of Kyushu.
Authorities have urged more than 4 million residents to evacuate.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has issued a rare “special warning” for the Kagoshima and Miyazaki in the Kyushu region – an alert that is issued only when it forecasts conditions seen once in several decades.
The 14th typhoon of the season, which has weakened as it approaches Kyushu, is bringing record rainfall, the JMA said, warning of the risk of overflowing rivers.
Southern Kyushu could receive 400mm of rain over the next 24 hours and wind gusts of up to 235kmh on Sunday, while the central Tokai region could get 300mm of rain, the agency forecast.
The typhoon has caused damage in southern Kyushu including downing a bus stop in Miyazaki prefecture and breaking the window of a pachinko parlour in Kagoshima prefecture, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Railway operators and airlines have cancelled services and convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan temporarily shut around 950 stores. Toyota Motor Corp said it will idle production at three factories on Monday.
The storm is forecast to turn east and pass over Japan’s main island of Honshu before moving out to sea by Wednesday. Heavy rain lashed the capital Tokyo, with the Tozai subway line suspended because of flooding.
By Sunday morning, heavy rain and high winds lashed the area on Japan’s southern island, with nearly 98,000 households in Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Miyazaki already without power.
Trains, flights and ferry runs were cancelled until the passage of the storm, and even some convenience stores – generally open all hours and considered a lifeline in disasters – were shutting their doors.
“Please stay away from dangerous places, and please evacuate if you feel even the slightest hint of danger,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted after convening a government meeting on the storm.
“It will be dangerous to evacuate at night. Please move to safety while it’s still light outside,” he added.
The JMA has warned the region could face “unprecedented” danger from high winds, storm surges and torrential rain.
“Maximum caution is required,” Ryuta Kurora, head of the JMA’s forecast unit said on Saturday.
“It’s a very dangerous typhoon.”
“The wind will be so fierce that some houses might collapse,” Kurora told reporters, also warning of flooding and landslides.
National broadcaster NHK, which collates local warnings, said more than 4 million people across Kyushu were issued evacuation warnings, with officials in Kagoshima and Miyazaki saying over 15,000 people were in local shelters by Sunday afternoon.
The evacuation warnings call on people to move to shelters or alternative accommodation that can withstand extreme weather.
But they are not mandatory, and during past extreme weather events authorities have struggled to convince residents to take shelter quickly enough.
Kurora urged people to evacuate before the worst of the storm arrived and warned that even in sturdy buildings residents would need to take precautions.
“Please move into sturdy buildings before violent winds start to blow and stay away from windows even inside sturdy buildings,” he told a late-night press conference.