Japan Meteorological Agency warns that Typhoon Nanmadol will be a dangerous storm – Copyright POOL/AFP Aaron Chown
Yuichi YAMAZAKI, Atish Patel
Thousands of people were sheltering in southwestern Japan on Sunday when powerful Typhoon Nanmadol hit the region, prompting authorities to call for nearly three million residents to evacuate.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has issued a rare “special alert” for the Kagoshima region in southern Kyushu prefecture – an alert that is issued only when it predicts conditions that occur every few decades.
By Sunday morning, 25,680 households in Kagoshima and neighboring Miyazaki were already without power, while regional trains, flights and ferries were canceled until the storm ended, local utilities and transportation officials said.
The JMA warned that the region could face “unprecedented” danger due to high winds, storm surges and heavy rains.
“Ultimate caution is required,” Ryuta Kurora, head of forecasting at the JMA, said on Saturday.
“This is a very dangerous typhoon.”
“The wind will be so strong that some houses may collapse,” Kurora told reporters, also warning of floods and landslides.
So far, 2.9 million Kyushu residents have received evacuation warnings, according to the government’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, and Kagoshima officials said more than 8,500 people were already in local shelters by Sunday morning.
Evacuation warnings urge people to move to shelter or alternative housing that can withstand extreme weather conditions.
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 storm hits and warned that even in sturdy buildings, residents must take precautions.
– “The greatest possible caution” –
“Please enter solid buildings before strong winds start blowing, and stay away from windows even inside solid buildings,” he said at an overnight press conference.
By Sunday morning, bullet train service in the area had been halted, as were regional rail lines, and NHK said at least 510 flights had been cancelled.
“The southern part of the Kyushu region may experience such strong winds, high waves and tides as never before,” the JMA said Sunday, urging residents to exercise “the greatest possible caution.”
At the scene, a Kagoshima Prefectural spokesman told AFP that there had been no reports of injuries or structural damage so far, but conditions were deteriorating.
“Rain and wind are picking up. The rain is so heavy that you can’t really see what’s out there. It looks white, he said.
At 9:00 am (00:00 GMT), the typhoon was 80 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of the Japanese island of Yakushima, with gusts reaching 252 kilometers per hour.
It is expected to reach the coast of Kyushu on Sunday evening before turning northeast and sweeping across Japan’s main island until Wednesday morning.
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, killing 14 people.
And in 2018, floods and landslides killed 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.