A powerful typhoon pounded Tokyo and surrounding areas with heavy rain and strong winds on Saturday, killing at least seven people. Fifteen others are missing, Japan’s chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told The Associated Press.
He said damage to housing from the flooding is extensive but promised recovery is on its way. Some 376,000 homes are without electricity, and 14,000 homes lack running water. The storm, Typhoon Hagibis, is forecast to be Japan’s worst typhoon in six decades.
It made landfall Saturday southwest of Tokyo shortly after an earthquake shook the area. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 5.3 quake was centered in the ocean off the coast of Chiba, near Tokyo.Flooding was reported Saturday south of Tokyo. Rivers have swelled and boats have flipped. Mudslide warnings have also been issued. Some 286,000 homes are without electricity, though some train services have resumed in the Tokyo area. “Be ready for rainfall of the kind that you have never experienced,” said meteorological agency official Yasushi Kajihara, adding that areas usually safe from disasters may prove vulnerable. “Take all measures necessary to save your life,” he said. Kajihara said people who live near rivers should take shelter on the second floor or higher of any sturdy building if an officially designated evacuation center wasn’t easily accessible. He also expressed fears that disaster may have already struck in some areas. Hagibis, which means “speed” in Filipino, has reached Kawasaki, a western part of greater Tokyo. It was advancing north-northwestward with maximum sustained winds of 144 kilometers (90 miles) per hour, traveling northward at a speed of 40 kph (25 mph).The storm brought heavy rainfall in wide areas of Japan all day ahead of its landfall, including in Shizuoka and Mie prefectures, southwest of Tokyo, as well as Chiba to the north, which saw power outages and damaged homes in a typhoon last month.
Yusuke Ikegaya, a Shizuoka resident who evacuated ahead of the storm, said he was surprised that the nearby river was about to overflow in the morning, hours before the typhoon made landfall. “In the 28 years of my life, this is the first time I’ve had to evacuate even before a typhoon has landed,” he said. Rugby World Cup matches, concerts and other events in the area were canceled, while flights were grounded and train services halted. Authorities acted quickly, with warnings issued earlier in the week, including urging people to stay indoors. Some 17,000 police and military troops were called up, standing ready for rescue operations. Residents taped up their apartment windows to prevent them from shattering. TV talks shows showed footage of household items like a slipper bashing through glass when hurled by winds. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded most domestic and international flights at the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports. Central Japan Railway Co. canceled bullet-train service between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka. Tokyo Disneyland was closed, while Ginza department stores and smaller shops throughout Tokyo were shuttered. Evacuation advisories were issued for risk areas, including Shimoda city, west of Tokyo. Dozens of evacuation centers were set up in coastal towns, and people rested on gymnasium floors, saying they hoped their homes were still there after the storm passed.
A typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 left more than 1,200 people dead and half a million houses flooded.
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