Torrential rains cause rivers to swell in southwestern Japan and authorities warn that flooding remains a possibility – Copyright AFP Yuichi YAMAZAKI
Atish Patel, Yuichi YAMAZAKI
Millions of people in Japan were warned to evacuate on Monday as Typhoon Nanmadol brought strong winds and heavy rain to the country’s southwest after making landfall overnight.
The powerful system had weakened since arriving on land Sunday night around the city of Kagoshima in the southwestern region of Kyushu, but it was still uprooting trees, breaking windows and leaving rivers on the brink of flooding.
National broadcaster NHK reported that one person died and 50 were injured as the storm passed through Kyushu. There was no immediate confirmation of the figures from the authorities.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was due to leave for the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, will postpone his trip for a day to check on storm damage, his office confirmed.
Officials from the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that in Miyazaki Prefecture, where some areas received more rain in 24 hours than usual for the whole of September, river levels were high.
“Even a small amount of additional rainfall can cause water levels to rise, so please remain vigilant for floods and landslides,” Yoshiyuki Toyoguchi of the land ministry told reporters.
However, given the strength of the storm, which made landfall with gusts of up to 234 kilometers (145 miles) per hour, damage appears to be relatively minor so far.
“The typhoon has all but disappeared today, and the rain and wind have also subsided,” Saito Miyazaki, an official in charge of crisis management in the city, told AFP.
“But there is no electricity in some places… we also hear from many residents that the electric wires have been cut and trees have been knocked down,” he said, declining to give his name.
“The flooding is also affecting some areas,” he added, saying officials “feel that we still have a lot of damage to figure out.”
Rare “special warnings” for Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, issued only when weather events are forecast every few decades, have been lowered.
But various levels of evacuation warnings remained in place for 9.6 million people on the final day of the Japanese holiday.
Warnings are not mandatory, and authorities have sometimes struggled to convince residents to leave their homes during extreme weather events.
“I didn’t feel safe at home”
In the town of Izumi in Kagoshima Prefecture, 30-year-old Yasuta Yamaguchi spent the night at a local hotel to escape the bad weather.
“I came to the hotel to take shelter because it was windy and I thought it was dangerous,” he told AFP.
“I didn’t feel safe at home.”
Nearly 313,000 households in Kyushu and the neighboring Chugoku region were without power by Monday morning, according to public utilities. Hundreds of flights have been canceled and many trains have been halted in the affected regions, according to NHK.
As of 1100 (0200 GMT), the typhoon was spiraling from the north-northeast near Kitakyushu, Kyushu’s northernmost city, as of 1100 (0200 GMT), with maximum wind gusts of about 162 kilometers per hour, according to JMA.
“The dense cloud and the area around the center of the typhoon have already disappeared and are rapidly weakening,” Ryuta Kurora, head of forecasts at the JMA, told reporters.
“The typhoon is still weakening and as of 9:00 am (0000 GMT) it has been downgraded from a strong and major typhoon to a major typhoon,” he said.
Japan is currently in typhoon season and faces about 20 such storms a year, regularly seeing heavy rains that cause landslides or flash floods.
In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan, host of the Rugby World Cup, killing more than 100 people.
A year earlier, Typhoon Jebi closed Kansai Airport in Osaka and killed 14 people.
2018 was a particularly bad year, with floods and landslides killing more than 200 people in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.
Scientists say climate change is increasing the strength of storms and causing extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and flash floods to become more frequent and intense.