Powerful Typhoon Hagibis tears through Tokyo region, killing 2:prompting rare weather warnings

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Japan: Record-breaking rainfall, strong winds and severe flooding struck areas from central to northern Japan on Saturday as Typhoon Hagibis made landfall on Shizuoka Prefecture’s Izu Peninsula and directly hit Tokyo and its surrounding areas.At least two people were killed, nine were missing, and 86 others were injured across 27 prefectures.

As of early Sunday morning, the typhoon was traveling toward the Tohoku region, and as many as 340,000 residents in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, were advised to evacuate. According to the Meteorological Agency, Hagibis was predicted to move into the Pacific Ocean off Tohoku by around 9 a.m. Sunday.

Over 6 million people across Japan were urged to evacuate earlier in the day, with train operators suspending most services and airports shutting down in the metropolitan and surrounding areas.

Huge amounts of rainfall pushed up water levels of many rivers in areas including Tokyo, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, and some were overflowing.

More than 100 rivers were at risk of overflowing, including the Arakawa River in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, the Karasawa River in Saitama Prefecture and Koito River in Chiba Prefecture.

The Tama River running between Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture began to overflow into the Tamagawa area of Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward at around 10:30 p.m. The area is better known as Futako-Tamagawa.

The Chikuma River flooded in the city of Ueda and the city of Nagano, both in Nagano Prefecture, as did the Minami-Asakawa River in Hachioji and the Nariki River in Ome, both in Tokyo.

At the same time, the operators of several dams in mountainous areas said they were considering the emergency step of releasing massive amounts of water as of Saturday night. This would significantly increase flood risks in downstream areas, and local authorities repeatedly urged local residents to check safety information and evacuate if necessary.

Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa posted a video on the prefecture’s website announcing that Shiroyama Dam in Sagamihara was set to release water at 10 p.m. He said it was an emergency measure to prevent the collapse of the dam. The dam released water at 9:30 p.m., moving up the original schedule.

“If we leave this situation unattended, the dam would collapse and more than 60 million tons of water would be unleashed at once,” Kuroiwa said.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Government said the release could increase flood risks at downstream areas, including parts of Sagamihara, Chigasaki, Atsugi, Ebina and Zama.

Just prior to landfall, Hagibis was downgraded to “strong,” the Meteorological Agency’s lowest level for typhoons just above “severe tropical storm.” But as of 8 p.m., it was still packing sustained winds of 144 kph and gusts of 198 kph. The storm is forecast to travel over Kanto region and then north into Tohoku region before moving into the Pacific.

Officials in Tokyo and surrounding areas, including Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, the city of Kawasaki and many other municipalities in Kanagawa Prefecture, warned of flood risks as rivers rose and advised evacuation.

“A typhoon of an unprecedented scale is about to hit Kanto. I’d like you to take actions to protect your own life,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told an emergency news conference.

A level 5 special warning for heavy rain, the highest issued by the Meteorological Agency, was issued at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday urging residents in Tokyo, Shizuoka, Kanagawa, Saitama, Gunma, Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures to evacuate to a secure building or move to the second floor. At just before 8 p.m., the special rain warning was extended to Ibaraki, Tochigi , Niigata, Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.

Amid concerns about landslides, flooding and record-breaking rainfall, more than 188,000 residents in Hachioji—a city in the western part of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area—and 432,000 in Edogawa Ward were issued an evacuation advisory, which is the last warning issued before a noncompulsory evacuation instruction is given.

In the city of Ichihara in Chiba Prefecture — which was still recovering after it took the brunt of Typhoon Faxai last month — a man was killed at around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday when his vehicle flipped over, while four others—including two children — were injured by a tornado in a nearby area.

“It might have been the sound of the collapse of the house, but I thought lightning struck,” a resident said.

Hagibis, which earlier on Saturday was considered equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane on the five step Saffir-Simpson scale used in the United States, drew comparisons to a deadly 1958 typhoon in Shizuoka Prefecture and the Kanto region that triggered a series of landslides and flooded the Kano River, leaving 888 people dead 381 missing.

Hagibis was passing over several areas still trying to recover from Faxai, which wreaked havoc just over a month ago, killing at least three people and injuring around 40.

Most forms of public transportation, including trains and planes, were suspended or canceled on Saturday. The Shonan-Shinjuku Line was halted for the entire day while other major routes including the Chuo, Yamanote, Saikyo and Keihin Tohoku lines were suspended at around noon.

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) canceled all shinkansen services between Tokyo and Nagoya on Saturday while West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) suspended various lines between Shin-Osaka and Okayama stations from the afternoon onward.

Two rugby matches set to be played at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama and Toyota Stadium in Aichi Prefecture were canceled on Saturday for the first time in Rugby World Cup history. The storm also forced the first-ever all-day closure of Tokyo’s Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks, disrupted the Suzuka Grand Prix and grounded more than 1,600 flights.

Information from Kyodo, Reuters, AFP-Jiji, and Jiji added

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