Two people were killed, more than 60 people were injured and more than six million people were advised to evacuate as a powerful typhoon bore down on the Japanese capital on Saturday, bringing with it the heaviest rain and winds in 60 years.
- Typhoon Hagibis is thought to be the worst storm since 1968
- Millions told to evacuate and 370,000 homes without power
- Major events and transport have all been halted
Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, made landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu on shortly before 7:00pm on Saturday evening (local time), bursting some river banks and threatening to flood low-lying Tokyo as it coincides with high tide.
It is now moving up the eastern coast, with wind speeds of around 225 kilometres per hour.
The storm, which the government warned could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958, brought record-breaking rainfall in many areas, including the popular hot spring resort town of Hakone, with a whopping 939.5mm of rain over 24 hours.
The Japan Meteorological Agency issued the highest alert level for 12 prefectures, including Tokyo, warning of amounts of rain that occur only once in decades.
“Be ready for rainfall of the kind that you have never experienced,” said meteorological agency official Yasushi Kajihara, adding that areas usually safe from disasters may prove vulnerable.
“Take all measures necessary to save your life,” he said.
Tokyo’s Haneda airport and Narita airport in Chiba both stopped flights from landing and connecting trains were suspended, forcing the cancellation of more than a thousand flights, according to Japanese media.
More than 370,000 homes suffered power outages as a result of the typhoon, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Kanagawa prefecture officials said they would release water from the Shiroyama dam, southwest of Tokyo, and alerted residents in areas along nearby rivers.
Heavy winds have already caused some damage, particularly in Chiba east of Tokyo, where one of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan in recent years destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses a month ago.
A tornado ripped through Chiba on Saturday, overturning a car in the city of Ichihara and killing a man inside the vehicle, city official Tatsuya Sakamaki said.
Another man was killed when a landslide crushed his house.
Five people were injured when the tornado ripped through a house.
A number of municipal governments issued evacuation orders to areas particularly at risk of floods and landslides, including some in the most populous Tokyo region.
Experts warned that Tokyo, while long conditioned to prepare for earthquakes, was vulnerable to flooding.
Tokyo, where 1.5 million people live below sea level, is prone to damage from storm surges, said Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, director of the Japan Riverfront Research Centre.
Cities across central Japan such as Shizuoka were facing flooded streets even before the typhoon made landfall. (AP: Kyodo News)
“We are heading towards high tide. If the typhoon hits Tokyo when the tide is high, that could cause storm surges and that would be the scariest scenario,” he said.
“People in Tokyo have been in a false sense of security.”
The Defence Ministry set up a new Twitter account to disseminate information on disaster relief efforts. Some 17,000 police and military troops were called up, standing ready for rescue operations.
Stores, factories and subway systems have been shut down as a precaution, leaving Tokyo’s usually bustling shopping and entertainment districts such as Shibuya and Ginza deserted.
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.