A powerful typhoon is barrelling towards Tokyo on Friday (Oct 11), threatening to batter the Japanese capital with the heaviest rain in 60 years, shutting down stores, factories and subway systems, as well as disrupting a Formula One Grand Prix and rugby’s World Cup.
Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, is due to make landfall on the main island of Honshu on Saturday, a month after one of the strongest typhoons to hit Japan in recent years destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses and caused extensive power cuts.
The storm could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958.
Areas from the west to the northeast of the country would experience “brutal winds and violent seas”, warned the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
“We ask you to evacuate or take measures to ensure safety early, before winds and rain intensify, and before it gets dark, in order to protect your own life and the lives of your loved ones,” JMA forecaster Yasushi Kajiwara said at a press briefing.
“The rain could be record-breaking,” he added. “The predicted conditions and severity of a possible disaster are tremendous.”
Overnight, Typhoon Hagibis was downgraded slightly from its “super typhoon” status, but was still forecast to be packing maximum gusts of 216kmh when it makes landfall.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered his Cabinet ministers to do their utmost to secure people’s safety.
Officials in the Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo, which was hit hard by typhoon Faxai a month ago, have told people to prepare supplies of food and water for up to three days.
Some supermarkets ran out of bottled water and batteries. Twitter users posted photographs of bare shelves and traded tips on how to prepare for disruptions to water and power cuts.
Many of more than 30,000 houses Typhoon Faxai destroyed or damaged in Chiba last month have yet to be repaired.
TRANSPORT CHAOS EXPECTED, DISNEYLAND TO SHUT
The storm is expected to cause transport chaos over a holiday weekend in Japan, with many forced to cancel travel plans.
Japan’s two main airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, have cancelled hundreds of domestic flights.
And the operator of the main bullet train service linking Tokyo and western cities said it would suspend all services between the capital and Nagoya on Saturday.
Operators of trains serving the capital also announced complete or partial service suspensions starting from Saturday morning.
The storm will even force the first-ever all-day typhoon closure of Tokyo’s Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks, with doors shut from Saturday until at least noon on Sunday, a spokesman for their operator Oriental Land told AFP.
Retail giant Seven & I Holdings said it would shut its supermarkets and department stores in metropolitan Tokyo.
Toyota Motor Corp announced it was suspending production at three factories.
Japanese Formula One Grand Prix organisers cancelled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday, adding that the qualifying round would be held on Sunday, before the final race takes place as planned.
The approaching super typhoon has already forced the cancellation of two matches of the rugby World Cup on Saturday, while a Sunday match between host Japan and Scotland is in doubt.
Japan is hit by around 20 typhoons a year, though the capital is not usually badly affected.
Local officials equipped with satellite phones will be dispatched across the region to ensure communities can seek help during and after the storm.