Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Japan braces for heavy rain and high winds from Typhoon Hagibis

Approaching storm has disrupted weekend sports events including Rugby World Cup and Formula One

Japan's government warned people to stockpile and leave high-risk places before the arrival this weekend of a typhoon expected to bring heavy rain and damaging winds to the Tokyo area and the central Pacific coast.

The approach of Typhoon Hagibis has disrupted flights and train services and forced the cancellation of Rugby World Cup matches and other events on Saturday. In the town of Kiho, in Mie prefecture south-west of Tokyo, shops were boarded up, boats were anchored, and authorities checked coastal levees. Residents in Tokyo were buying bottled water, cup noodles and other food.

"In order to protect your own life and your loved ones, please try to start evacuating early before it gets dark and the storm becomes powerful," Meteorological Agency forecast department chief Yasushi Kajihara told a news conference.

Mr Kajihara said Typhoon Hagibis resembled a storm that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 with heavy rains and left a half-million houses flooded. More than 1,200 people died.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet scheduled a disaster management meeting later Friday.

"The government is doing the utmost to prepare for the approaching typhoon," disaster management minister Ryota Takeda said.

Economy Minister Isshu Sugawara urged hospitals and other public facilities to check their backup power.

Hagibis, which means speed in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with winds of 180 kilometres per hour gusting to 250kph on Friday afternoon, the weather agency said. It is expected to weaken as it hugs the Pacific coast of Japan's main island on Saturday, making landfall south of Tokyo and passing out to sea by Sunday afternoon.

Up to 800 millimetres of rain was forecast south and west of Tokyo, while the capital region may see 600mm from Saturday morning to Sunday morning.

The storm is expected to disrupt sports and holiday events on the three-day weekend that includes Sports Day on Monday. Two Rugby World Cup matches — England versus France, and New Zealand vs Italy — that were to be played on Saturday were cancelled. Qualifying for a Formula One auto racing in Suzuka was pushed to Sunday. And the defence ministry cut a three-day annual navy review to just Monday.

All Nippon Airways grounded all domestic flights scheduled on Saturday at Tokyo's Haneda and Narita international airports, while Japan Airlines has cancelled all but early morning flights at Tokyo airports.

Central Japan Railway said it would cancel all bullet train services between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka in the west.

The typhoon is spreading fear especially in Chiba, near Tokyo, which was hit by Typhoon Faxai last month and where homes still have damage.

Chiba city distributed sandbags to shield against flooding and urged residents to make sure they have enough food, water and that their phones are charged.

Updated: October 11, 2019 12:20 PM

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