Typhoon Hagibis makes landfall in Japan, triggering floods

A powerful typhoon made landfall on the Izu Peninsula near Tokyo on Saturday evening, disrupting transportation in the capital region and leaving two people dead. Millions of people in the Tokyo metropolitan area have been advised to evacuate as the storm approaches. Torrential rains caused rivers to flood, and authorities are taking emergency steps to discharge water from several dams to prevent them bursting, at the risk of further flooding.

Typhoon Hagibis is expected to be one of the strongest typhoons Japan has experienced in decades.

In Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo, one man in his fifties died in an overturned car in the early morning. Police are investigating whether it was caused by strong winds due to the typhoon. In the city, several houses have been affected by strong winds and parts of their roof were blown off. Five people, including three minors, have been injured.

In Gunma Prefecture, also near Tokyo, a man who went missing in a landslide was found dead.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued special heavy rain warnings on Saturday afternoon in seven prefectures, including Tokyo, Gunma, Saitama, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka. The alert is the highest of the five levels of warnings. The agency said that downpours “with a level of intensity observed only once every few decades” are predicted in those prefectures. The agency later added five more prefectures further north including Fukushima and Niigata.

A residential area in Ise, Mie Prefecture, is submerged due to torrential rain from Typhoon Hagibis on Oct. 12.   © Kyodo

Heavy rain lead to rivers flooding in the eastern prefectures of Tokyo, Shizuoka and Nagano. Authorities in Nagano and Kanagawa prefectures were forced to release water from several dams, despite the increased risk of more rivers flooding. Similar precautions are expected to be taken at some other dams.

Meanwhile, millions of people have been affected by evacuation advisories issued by municipal governments. In Tokyo, as of 2:45 p.m., over 14 cities and towns have advised residents to evacuate.

As of 10 p.m. Saturday, roughly 385,000 households in Tokyo and eight surrounding prefectures were without power, according to Tepco Power Grid. Within Chubu Electric Power’s service area, roughly 53,000 households were affected by blackouts as of 10 p.m.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday instructed ministers to put every effort into emergency measures and gather information as quickly as possible when damage occurs due to the typhoon.

Surging waves crash against a breakwater and lighthouse as Typhoon Hagibis approaches a port in the town of Kiho, Mie Prefecture, central Japan, on Oct. 12. 

The Defense Ministry has ordered 17,000 personnel of the Self-Defense Forces to stay on the alert to be able to immediately deploy for rescue operations.

Most public transportation in the Tokyo area has been suspended. East Japan Railway, the operator of Tokyo’s major rail lines, had suspended all regular train services in the capital region by 1 p.m.

Service is projected to resume Sunday afternoon, but delays are possible, depending on the storm’s damage.

The Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train canceled all trips Saturday between Tokyo and Nagoya. Other bullet train lines were suspended or services cut back as well.

Stranded foreign travelers wait at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Oct. 12 after all flights were cancelled. (Photo by Hiroyuki Yamamoto)

Tokyo’s Narita Airport has stopped accepting incoming passenger flights because railways servicing the airport have halted their operations. In September, when another strong typhoon hit the area, more than 10,000 people were stuck at the airport because flights kept arriving after buses and railways stopped operating.

Most retail stores and restaurants suspended their operation on Saturday. Seven-Eleven Japan operator Seven & i Holdings and department store group Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings closed stores. Sushiro Global Holdings, operator of a chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants, closed 150 outlets in the Kanto and Tokai regions on Saturday.

Tourist attractions such as Tokyo Disney Resort closed their doors on the day and several music concerts were canceled or postponed. The Rugby World Cup canceled two games on Saturday.