TOKYO - The Greater Tokyo area encountered its most violent storm in history overnight as Typhoon Faxai lashed the region, killing at least three people and leaving behind in its wake early morning transport snarls and stifling heat on Monday (Sept 9).
Unseasonable temperatures rose as high as 37 deg C in Tokyo’s Nerima ward, mere hours after Faxai – the 15th typhoon of the season – swept through the world’s largest metropolitan area, felling trees and power lines, toppling walls and scaffolding, and blowing away roofs.
This marked the first time in 19 years the mercury has risen above 36 deg C in Tokyo in September, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said, as it issued heatstroke warnings. The unseasonal heat is expected to continue on Tuesday.
One woman in her 50s died in Tokyo after she was smashed against a building by strong gusts, according to security camera footage.
In Otaki town in Chiba prefecture, an 87-year-old man died when a tree fell on him. Mr Ichiro Shimizu was working with his daughter to remove storm debris from a private road connecting his home to the main road.
Mr Shunichi Hamawaki, 47, died at the Yokosuka base of the Maritime Self-Defence Force in Kanagawa prefecture, and police believe he might have been blown off a terrace on the second floor.
About 60 others were injured, media reports said, including a woman in her 20s who was severely hurt after she was pinned by metal pillars at a golf practice range that fell onto her home in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture.
After hammering the Greater Tokyo region, Typhoon Faxai headed north-east at a speed of 25kmh towards the Tohoku region before turning to the Pacific Ocean Monday afternoon.
At its peak, it had sparked non-compulsory evacuation warnings for more than 390,000 people, and caused blackouts to some 934,000 homes in what was the worst power outage in the region since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
As of Monday night, 670,000 homes were still without electricity, mainly in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo. Two power transmission towers that service the prefecture had collapsed, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company has requested help from utilities companies in other regions to support its equipment restoration.
The blackout forced a Sony unit to suspend operations at its plant in Chiba prefecture, where it produces the PlayStation 4 console.
The storm caused major transport snarls on Monday morning, as train operators including JR East and Toei Subway suspended major lines until at least 8am on Monday, wrecking havoc on the peak hour commute.
Long lines formed outside station gantries, with many reporting having to wait for more than an hour before being able to board their train.
One of Tokyo’s busiest and most important services – the JR Yamanote railway loop – resumed service only at 10.30am, after its operator had inspected tracks and cleared debris between Shinagawa and Osaki stations, where a tree had fallen onto an overhead power line.
At least four flights between Singapore and Tokyo were rescheduled, among at least 100 flights that had to be cancelled or rescheduled.
The JMA had said on Sunday that Typhoon Faxai was forecast to pack ferocious winds of up to 216kmh with an atmospheric pressure of 960 hectopascals at its centre.
Estimated rainfall for the 24-hour period until 12pm on Monday was up to 300mm in the Greater Tokyo region and up to 150mm in the Tohoku region.
To prepare for its approach, about 100 bullet train services were scrapped on Sunday evening, as were ferry services in Tokyo Bay.
Many department stores and restaurants closed hours earlier than scheduled, to allow employees and customers time to get home before the storm hit.
The typhoon made landfall in Chiba, east of the capital, just before 5am (4am Singapore time), after pummelling Tokyo Bay, where raging seas caused a 2,982-ton and a 5,578-ton container vessel to collide.
Wind speeds in Chiba’s Chuo ward topped a record-breaking 207kmh, while Narita had wind speeds of 165kmh and Haneda Airport 156kmh.
A temporary scaffolding collapsed at the Haneda Airport international terminal, while the gusts also toppled the scaffolding at a multi-story car park at a domestic terminal.
There were reports of collapsed steel advertising boards, shattered window glass, and of corrugated metal roofs being blown away in Kanagawa prefecture, south-west of Tokyo, where a landslide caused the closure of a tunnel near Zushi city.
Over in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, at least one truck was flipped onto its side, while a roof collapsed at a petrol station in Tateyama city, crushing the pumps underneath.
Solar power plants also caught fire and emergency crews were fighting to put it out as at 2pm, NHK reported.
The Mainichi daily also said that the Ryugujo Spa Hotel Mikazuki caught fire at about 7.30am, after it lost power and switched to emergency generators. Some 300 guests had to be evacuated.
RUGBY PREPARATIONS AFFECTED
Typhoon Faxai struck as teams began arriving for the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off next Friday (Sept 20).
The Agence France-Presse agency reported that the French team arrived just before the typhoon and reached their training camp near Mount Fuji, though the scheduled arrival of the Australian Wallabies squad was delayed.