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Typhoon Hagibis: Japan's wettest storm in decades makes landfall

The storm has weakened but was still packing gusts of wind up to 216 km/h.

This NASA image showing the outer parts of Hagibis reaching Japan.
This NASA image showing the outer parts of Hagibis reaching Japan.
Image: Twitter/NASAHurricane

Updated Sat 1:47 PM

POWERFUL TYPHOON HAGIBIS has made landfall in Japan and has already claimed a first victim.

The storm brings potentially record-breaking rains and high winds and has sparked evacuation orders for more than 1.6 million people.

Rated “large and very strong”, the storm has also forced the cancellation of two Rugby World Cup matches, disrupted the Japanese Grand Prix and grounded more than 1,600 flights.

It crashed into Japan’s main Honshu island just before 7:00 pm local time (11 am Irish time), barrelling into Izu, a peninsula southwest of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

The storm has weakened but was still packing gusts of wind up to 216 km/h around an hour before the central eye hit the shore.

It was Hagibis’ torrential rain that prompted the JMA to issue their highest-level emergency warning for parts of Tokyo and the surrounding areas, warning of disaster.

The storm claimed its first victim hours before arriving on the coast, when strong winds from its outer bands flipped a car in Chiba east of Tokyo and killed the driver.

“A 49-year-old man was found in a toppled mini truck. He was sent to hospital but confirmed dead,” Hiroki Yashiro, a spokesman at Ichihara Fire Department, in Chiba, told AFP.

Hagibis is the first storm rated “very strong” to hit the main island of Honshu since 1991, when the category system was introduced, local media said.

By midday, 1.64 million people in the affected area were under non-mandatory evacuation orders, with authorities urging the elderly, disabled and those with children to leave early.

Hagibis is an unusually large storm, expected to bring “brutal winds and violent seas” to large swathes of the country, the weather agency said.

The expected rainfall, in particular, has sparked concern, with the JMA warning that high tides ahead of a full moon increase the risk of flooding.

It has issued warnings for strong winds, high waves, landslides and serious flooding for large areas of Honshu.

japan-asia-typhoon Surging waves hit against the breakwater and a lighthouse at a port in Kiho. Source: PA Images

Power outages

Before the storm made landfall, torrential rain was falling and tornado-like gusts of wind ripped into several homes in Chiba, destroying one.

Five people including a three-year-old boy were sent to hospital, but none suffered serious injuries, the local fire department told AFP.

The JMA has forecast half a metre of rain for the Tokyo area in the 24 hours to midday on Sunday, with more for the central Tokai region.

Television footage showed gigantic waves smashing into coastal breakwaters and residents living near a river in Tokyo piling up sandbags in front of their houses.

Others have nailed wooden boards to the frames of windows.

By 9 am local time (1 am Irish time) 11,600 households in Chiba had already lost power. The region was badly hit by another powerful typhoon in September.

Automakers, including Toyota and Honda, have shut down their factories, and many supermarkets and convenience stores in the capital closed, a day after residents shopping for typhoon supplies emptied the shelves.

Rugby, F1 disrupted

The storm has also thrown two major sporting events into disarray, delaying Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers scheduled for today and forcing the cancellation of two Rugby World Cup matches: England-France and New Zealand-Italy.

The storm could also jeopardise a key match-up between Scotland and Japan scheduled for tomorrow.

japan-rugby-wcup-ireland Ireland's Rugby World Cup match went ahead in the south of the country this morning. Source: Aaron Favila/PA Images

Officials are not expected to make a final decision on that game until tomorrow morning, after they have assessed any damage to the venue and transport links.

Scotland face elimination if the match is axed and have warned they could take legal action if the game is cancelled. World Rugby called the threat “disappointing”.

The storm is also causing transport chaos over a long weekend in Japan.

Japanese airlines have scrapped more than 1,660 domestic flights and some 260 international flights on Saturday, NHK said.

Many bullet train lines from the capital are suspended, along with both overground and some subway lines serving the Tokyo area.

The storm has also forced the first all-day typhoon closure of Tokyo’s Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks, with doors shut from Saturday until at least noon on Sunday.

Japan is hit by around 20 typhoons a year, though the capital is not usually badly affected.

Hagibis is bearing down on the region just weeks after another powerful storm, Typhoon Faxai, hit the area with similar strength, killing two and causing major damage in Chiba.

More than 36,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in Chiba, and the local government has urged those in affected buildings to take shelter elsewhere during the storm.

© – AFP 2019

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