TOKYO (REUTERS, AFP) - Japan issued evacuation advisories for more than a million people and cancelled hundreds of flights as the strongest typhoon to hit the country in 25 years sliced across the west on Tuesday (Sept 4), killing at least eight people.
Jebi, or “swallow” in Korean, was briefly a super typhoon and is the most powerful storm to hit Japan in 25 years. It follows rains, landslides, floods and record-breaking heat that killed hundreds of people this summer.
Television footage showed waves pounding the coastline, sheet metal tumbling across a carpark, cars turned on their sides, dozens of used cars on fire at an exhibition area, and a big Ferris wheel spinning around in the strong wind.
As the typhoon made landfall, a 71-year-old man was found dead under a collapsed warehouse, likely due to a strong wind, and a man in his 70s fell from the roof of a house and died, NHK public television reported. It said at least eight were killed and 348 were injured.
Tides in some areas were the highest since a typhoon in 1961, NHK said, with flooding covering one runway at Kansai airport near Osaka, forcing the closure of the airport and leaving about 3,000 tourists stranded.
“This storm is super (strong). I hope I can get home,” a woman from Hong Kong told NHK at the airport.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) said it has cancelled four flights: SQ622 and SQ618 from Singapore to Osaka; and SQ623 and SQ619 from Osaka to Singapore.
The airport is not expected to reopen on Wednesday, Kyodo News reported last night.
The strong winds and high tides sent a 2,591-tonne tanker crashing into a bridge connecting the airport, built on a man-made island in a bay, to the mainland. The bridge was damaged and closed, but the tanker was empty and none of its crew were injured, the coast guard said.
The storm made landfall on Shikoku, the smallest main island, around noon. It raked across the western part of the largest main island, Honshu, near the city of Kobe, several hours later.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier urged people to evacuate early and ordered his government to take all necessary measures to protect residents.
“This is (the strongest) since 1993,” the weather agency's chief forecaster Ryuta Kurora said.
As the storm approached, Mr Abe called a disaster response meeting and cancelled a trip to western Japan. “I urge the Japanese people to take action to protect your lives, including preparing and evacuating early,” he said.
He also instructed his Cabinet to “take all measures possible”.
Evacuation advisories were issued for more than one million people as the wind and rain began picking up, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. Wind gusts of up to 208kmh were recorded in one part of Shikoku, with forecasts for gusts as high as 216kmh.
“Our house is right at the base of a mountain, so it’s a little dangerous and we decided to leave,” one woman told NHK.
Television footage showed waves pounding the coastline, sheet metal tumbling across a parking lot and a truck turned on its side.
People in Kobe reported on Twitter that the wind was shaking their apartment buildings and ripping branches off trees.
Around 100mm of rain drenched one part of the tourist city of Kyoto in an hour, with as much as 500mm set to fall in some areas in the 24 hours to noon on Wednesday.
Video posted on Twitter showed a small part of the roof of Kyoto train station falling to the ground.
More than 700 flights were cancelled, along with scores of ferries and trains, NHK said. Shinkansen bullet train services between Tokyo and Hiroshima were suspended, and Universal Studios Japan, a popular amusement park near Osaka, was closed.
Some 177,000 customers across western Japan lost power, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said. Toyota Motor Corp said it was cancelling the night shift at some 14 plants.
The capital, Tokyo, will be far from the centre of the storm but was set for heavy rains and high winds by the end of Tuesday.
Jebi’s course has brought it close to parts of western Japan hit by rains and flooding that killed more than 200 people in July. However, it was set to speed up after making landfall, minimising the amount of rain that will fall in one place.