A heavy downpour and strong winds pounded Tokyo and surrounding areas on Saturday as a powerful typhoon forecast as the worst in six decades approached landfall, with streets and train stations deserted and shops shuttered.
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Store shelves were bare after people stocked up on water and food. Nearby beaches had not a surfer in sight, only towering dashing waves. Several evacuation warnings were issued in Tokyo areas warning of possible flooding.
Typhoon Hagibis, closing in from the Pacific, brought heavy rainfall in wide areas of Japan ahead of its landfall, including Shizuoka and Mie prefectures, southwest of Tokyo, as well as Chiba to the north, which had suffered power outages and damaged homes from last month’s typhoon.
Under gloomy skies, a tornado ripped through Chiba on Saturday, overturning a car in the city of Ichihara and killing a man inside, city official Tatsuya Sakamaki said. Five people were also injured when the tornado ripped through a house. Their injuries were not life-threatening, Sakamaki said.
The rains caused rivers to swell, flipped anchored boats and whipped up sea waters in a dangerous surge along the coast, flooding some residential neighborhoods and leaving people to wade in ankle-deep waters and cars floating.
In Shizuoka prefecture, one of two men who went missing in the Nishikawa River was rescued, Gotemba city official Fumihiko Katsumata said. Firefighters said the two men were working at a river canal to try to control overflowing when they were swept away.
Yusuke Ikegaya, a Shizuoka resident, was lucky and evacuated to safety. He said he was surprised because he had been told the typhoon was landing in the afternoon but noticed the nearby river about to overflow in the morning.
“In the 28 years of my life, this is the first time I’ve had to evacuate even before a typhoon has landed,” he said.
Authorities also warned of mudslides, common in mountainous Japan.
Rugby World Cup matches, concerts and other events have been canceled. Flights were grounded and train services halted. Authorities acted quickly, with warnings issued earlier this week, including urging people to stay indoors.
Some residents taped up their apartment windows in case they shattered. TV talks shows showed footage of household items like a slipper bashing through glass when hurled by winds as powerful as the approaching typhoon.
The typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 left more than 1,200 people dead and a half-million houses flooded.
Some 17,000 police and military troops have been called up, standing ready for rescue operations.
Hagibis, which means “speed” in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with maximum sustained winds of 162 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. It was expected to make landfall near Tokyo later Saturday, unleashing up to 55 millimeters (20 inches) of rains and then blow out to sea eastward.
Evacuation advisories have been issued for risk areas, including Shimoda city, west of Tokyo. Dozens of evacuation centers were opening in coastal towns, and people were resting on gymnasium floors, saying they hoped their homes were still there after the storm passed.
The storm has disrupted this nation’s three-day weekend, which includes Sports Day on Monday. Qualifying for a Formula One auto race in Suzuka was pushed to Sunday. The Defense Ministry cut a three-day annual navy review to a single day on Monday.
All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded most domestic and international flights scheduled Saturday at the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports. Central Japan Railway Co. said it will cancel all bullet train service between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka. Tokyo Disneyland was closed.
Ginza department stores and smaller shops throughout Tokyo shuttered ahead of the typhoon.
Mike Alsop, 57-year-old executive coach from England, was visiting Japan for the World Rugby tournament, but was left stranded at an abandoned Tokyo train station.
“We were hoping to watch England play against France today, disappointed that we won’t be able to but completely understand it,” he said.
Associated Press journalist Haruka Nuga contributed to this report.
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