Typhoon Nanmadol made landfall in the southwest Japan on Sunday night, with authorities urging millions of people to take shelter from the powerful storm’s strong winds and torrential rain.
The storm officially made landfall at around 7pm local time (11am BST) when its eyewall – the region just outside the eye – made landfall near Kagoshima, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
It was racking up gusts of up to almost 150mph and had already dumped up to 500mm of rain in less than 24 hours in parts of the southwestern Kyushu region.
Local officials said several people were injured. In the city of Kushima in the southern Miyazaki prefecture, a woman was slightly injured by glass shards when winds shattered the windows of a gym. National television station NHK reported that 15 people were injured, citing its own account.
At least 20,000 people stayed overnight in shelters in Kyushu’s Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, where the JMA issued a rare “special warning,” an alert issued only when it forecasts conditions seen once every several decades.
National broadcaster NHK, which collects information from local authorities, said more than 7 million people had been told to move to shelters or take shelter in sturdy buildings to weather the storm.
Evacuation warnings are not mandatory, and authorities have sometimes had trouble persuading people to move to shelters ahead of extreme weather. They tried to drive home their concerns about the weather system throughout the weekend.
“Please stay away from dangerous places and evacuate if you feel the slightest hint of danger,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted after calling a government meeting on the storm.
“It will be dangerous to evacuate at night. Please move to a safe place while it’s still light outside.”
The JMA warned that the region could face unprecedented danger from strong winds, storm surge and torrential rain, calling the storm “very dangerous.”
“Areas affected by the storm are seeing the kind of rain that has never been experienced before,” Hiro Kato, head of the Climate Monitoring and Warning Center, told reporters on Sunday.
“Especially in areas under landslide warnings, it is extremely likely that some types of landslides are already occurring.”
He urged “maximum caution even in areas where catastrophes do not usually occur.”
By Sunday night, utility companies said nearly 200,000 homes across the region were without power. Trains, flights and ferries were canceled until the storm passed, and even some convenience stores, usually open at all hours and considered a lifeline in disasters, closed their doors.
“The southern part of the Kyushu region may have a type of violent wind, high waves and high tides that have never been experienced before,” the JMA said on Sunday, urging people to exercise “the greatest possible caution.”
On the ground, an official from Kagoshima’s Izumi city said conditions were rapidly deteriorating on Sunday afternoon.
“The wind has become extremely strong. The rain falls hard too,” he told AFP. “It’s a total whiteout outside. Visibility is almost zero.
The storm, which weakened slightly as it approached land, is expected to turn northeast and cross the main island of Japan on Wednesday morning.
Japan is now in typhoon season and faces 20 such storms a year, with torrential rains that trigger landslides or flash floods. In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis slammed into Japan while it was hosting the Rugby World Cup, claiming the lives of more than 100 people.
A year earlier, Typhoon Jebi closed Kansai Airport in Osaka, killing 14 people. And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.
Scientists say the climate crisis is increasing the severity of storms and making extreme weather such as heat waves, droughts and flash floods more frequent and intense.
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