Typhoon Hagibis prompts evacuations in Japan as sky turns purple


October 12, 2019 17:09:03

Millions of people across Japan have been advised to evacuate their homes due to fears of flooding, as a super typhoon nears — which experts have warned could be more powerful and destructive than a typhoon that left 1,269 dead in 1958.

Key points:

  • Japan residents posted eerie images of vivid purple skies the night before Typhoon Hagibis was set to make landfall
  • By noon on Saturday, 1.64 million people in central Japan had been urged by authorities to evacuate their homes
  • One man died and five people were injured when wild storms crashed into Chiba prefecture today

Typhoon Hagibis is set to make landfall near the central Japanese city of Nagoya later tonight, with the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) saying early on Saturday that it was about 320 kilometres south-west of the tiny island of Hachiojima, with winds of about 160 kilometres per hour at its centre.

Overnight, residents posted surreal images of the sky transforming into electric shades of purple and pink. One Twitter user commented that the “beautiful scene” disguised a “big catastrophe”.

The vivid purple tint is the result of a weather phenomenon called “scattering”, which happens when the molecules and small particles in the atmosphere influence the direction of the light, causing the light to scatter.

Heavy storms and rain tend to wash away larger particles — which absorb more light and scatter wavelengths more evenly, resulting in muted hues — out of the air, making the colours of the sky more vivid.

A number of municipal governments issued evacuation advisories to areas particularly at risk, including some in the most populous greater Tokyo region, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, is due to make landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu late on Saturday (local time), just a month after one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in recent years destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses and caused extensive power outages.

Maximum gusts of 216 kilometres per hour are forecast by the time Hagibis crashes into land, according to the JMA.

According to local emergency workers, one person had died and five people were injured when early on Saturday the storm’s outer bands began lashing Chiba — a prefecture east of Tokyo that was hit hard by typhoon Faxai a month ago.

“A 49-year-old man was found in a toppled mini truck and sent to hospital but was confirmed dead,” Hiroki Yashiro, a spokesman at Ichihara Fire Department, in Chiba, said on Saturday morning.

Strong winds blew roofs off several houses and upturned cars, while violent waves crashed into the coastline.

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.

More than 1,600 flights around the country have been grounded and many of the country’s famous Shinkansen bullet train services have been suspended.

Department stores and shops were closed and streets were empty in central Tokyo while factories and subway systems all around Honshu have also been shut down as a precaution.

Images posted to Twitter showed panicked shoppers clearing out supermarket shelves ahead of the storm, while Japanese Formula One Grand Prix organisers cancelled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday.

Two matches of the Rugby World Cup due to be played on Saturday were also cancelled.

Storm surges are expected along the Pacific coast of Honshu on Saturday and Sunday, along with torrential rain, raising the risk of floods and landslides.

According to the JMA, the predicted rainfall amounts would be in line with those deposited by Typhoon Ida — known as the “Kanogawa Typhoon” in Japanese — in September 1958, which left more than 1,200 people dead or missing across Japan.








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