TOKYO - Just one month after the Greater Tokyo region endured the most violent storm in its history, an even stronger typhoon is forecast to batter the area on Saturday (Oct 12).
Typhoon Hagibis - the 19th typhoon this year - was already the top story on Japanese news bulletins on Wednesday, with the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) calling an urgent news conference to warn of potential widespread devastation.
The storm is the most severe this year, coming after Typhoon Faxai wrought havoc on the world's most populated metropolitan area, killing three, injuring at least 60 others, grounding flights and causing major transport snarls.
A forecast on Wednesday showed the Tokyo metropolitan area to be directly in the new storm's path. The JMA said that the typhoon is expected to bring strong winds, heavy rain and choppy waves to wide areas across Japan, from Okinawa in the south-west to Hokkaido in the north-east.
The weatherman has given Typhoon Hagibis its highest typhoon classification of "violent", while the United States' Joint Typhoon Warning Centre called it a "super typhoon" akin to a Category 5 hurricane. Typhoon Hagibis is likely to marginally weaken, but still pack winds above 179kmh, on its approach to the Japanese archipelago this weekend.
The organising committee of the Rugby World Cup said on Wednesday that it was considering counter-measures for the seven matches this weekend - including crunch ties between England and France on Saturday and between host Japan and Scotland on Sunday.
This may involve a change in the competition venue or a reschedule of the matches, which will be the last round of ties in the pool stage, the committee said.
Rugby World Cup tournament rules state that if a match in the pool stage cannot be held on a scheduled day, it will be deemed a draw with points allocated to both teams. But the organising committee said it sees cancellation only as a last resort, as doing so could have a bearing on the final league rankings and quarter-final match-ups.
Railway companies, including the East Japan Railway Company (JR East), have said that a cancellation of train services may be on the cards, depending on the trajectory of the typhoon.
Already, the Maritime Self-Defence Force has said it will cancel a public vessel observation event to be held at Sagami Bay off Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, this weekend.
JMA chief forecaster Ryuta Kurora said on Wednesday the typhoon may end up steering east towards the Pacific Ocean without making landfall. But even so, he called for added precautions as the large size of the typhoon means wide areas will still face strong winds.
He called on the Greater Tokyo region - which includes Tokyo and neighbouring prefectures such as Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama - to be on high alert for violent storms over the 24-hour period from 6am on Saturday (5am Singapore time) to 6am Sunday.
As of 6pm Wednesday, Typhoon Hagibis was tracking near Tokyo’s Ogasawara Islands, located 1,000km south-east of the mainland, and moving north-west at a speed of 15kmh. The storm is still rapidly intensifying, with a central pressure at 915 hectopascals and wind speeds of up to 198kmh. The maximum instantaneous wind speed was 270kmh.
After passing through, or near, the Greater Tokyo region, the storm will likely continue to weaken as it moves north-east towards Hokkaido on Sunday. Bloomberg cited forecasters as saying that the typhoon will then head towards Alaska, energising the jet stream - a ribbon of fast-moving air circling the globe - in a way that will cause frigid sub-zero temperatures in the United States.
Typhoon Hagibis comes as Chiba prefecture, directly to the east of Tokyo, is still recovering from the impact of Typhoon Faxai, which damaged 34,275 buildings and caused 41.2 billion yen (S$530 million) in damage to its agricultural industry.
Typhoon Faxai also knocked out power to as many as 930,000 homes at one point, and as of Sunday, 72 homes were still without power.
The Singapore Embassy in Tokyo, in a circular on Wednesday afternoon, said of Typhoon Hagibis: "Strong winds, heavy rain and high waves are expected. If you are going to be in the affected areas this weekend, you are advised to stay indoors and stay away from windows."