Typhoon Haishen: Japan braces for violent winds, heavy rain [photos]

Typhoon Haishen has weakened somewhat as it neared Japan’s mainland and shifted further west out to sea, but it remained a “large” and “extremely strong” storm.

After lashing a string of exposed, remote southern islands, it neared Japan’s Kyushu region on Sunday evening, with authorities issuing evacuation advisories for more than seven million residents.

Typhoon Haishen in Japan

The weather agency urged people to exercise “most serious caution” for possible record rain, violent winds, high waves and surging tides.

typhoon Haishen tropical cyclone japan
Women walk in heavy rain as Typhoon Haishen hits Kagoshima, Kagoshima prefecture on September 6, 2020. – Typhoon Haishen began to lash southern Japan on September 6, with officials warning it could bring record rainfall and winds strong enough to snap power line poles and flip cars. Photo: AFP/Charly Triballeau

“Record-level rainfall is expected. It may cause landslides or it could cause even large rivers to flood,” said Yoshihisa Nakamoto, director of the forecast division at the Japan Meteorological Agency, during a televised briefing.

He added that surging tides could cause widespread flooding in low-lying areas, particularly around river mouths. As the storm passed over several remote islands earlier Sunday, strong winds bent palm trees and sheets of rain lashed the area.

‘Maximum caution needed’

At an emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that flooding and landslides were a possibility. The Prime Minister said:

“Maximum caution is needed as record rain, violent winds, high waves and high tides are possible. I ask the Japanese people, including those who live in high-risk areas for flooding rivers or high tides, to stay informed and take action immediately to ensure their safety.”

typhoon Haishen tropical cyclone japan
A man (C) tries to control his umbrella in heavy wind as Typhoon Haishen approaches in Kagoshima, Kagoshima prefecture on September 6, 2020. Photo: AFP/Charly Triballeau

At 22:00 local time (15:00 SAST), Haishen was located about 90 kilometres west of Makurazaki city, packing gusts up to 216 km – strong enough to overturn vehicles and snap wooden power poles.

The storm was forecast to move north and travel off the western coast of Kyushu before reaching the Korean peninsula Monday morning, according to the weather agency.

Evacuation orders, blackouts

It comes as North Korea reels from severe damage left by a recent typhoon. Leader Kim Jong Un appeared in state media to inspect the damage and ordered 12 000 elite members of his ruling party to help with recovery efforts.

Japanese authorities issued evacuation orders for 1.8 million people in the affected area, with 5.6 million people issued lower-level advisories, national broadcaster NHK said.

Evacuation orders in Japan are not compulsory, though authorities strongly urge people to follow them.

typhoon Haishen tropical cyclone japan
A person leaves a barricaded convenience store as Typhoon Haishen approaches in Kagoshima, Kagoshima prefecture on September 6, 2020. Photo: AFP/Charly Triballeau

Local officials asked individuals to avoid crowded shelters where possible, to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections, and some centres were forced to turn people away in order to have enough space to maintain social distancing.

COVID-19 complications

In some places, residents were checking into nearby hotels to comply with evacuations advisories. Hotel Polaris in Shibushi city, Kagoshima, said all 73 of its rooms were sold out for the weekend.

“This is a large building for our area. I think our guests have chosen to stay with us to feel safe,” front desk employee Takayuki Shinmura told AFP, adding that it was unusual for all of the hotel’s rooms to be occupied during typhoons.

Those who sought hotel rooms said the pandemic and discomfort of public shelters were weighing on them.

typhoon Haishen tropical cyclone japan
People undergo a temperature check before boarding a bus as an evacuation advice is issued due to the approach of typhoon Haishen in Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture on September 6, 2020. Photo: AFP/Charly Triballeau

“I am worried about coronavirus infections. We’re with small children too, so we did not want other people to see us as big trouble,” an elderly man in Shibushi city told NHK after checking in at a local hotel with seven relatives.

Missing Gulf Livestock 1 cargo ship sailors

The storm has forced the cancellation of nearly 550 flights and disrupted train services, NHK said. Many factories also suspended operations, including three plants operated by Toyota.

More than 220 000 homes in the Kyushu region lost power as the storm swept just west of the region. Haishen forced the Japanese coast guard to suspend its search for dozens of missing sailors from the Gulf Livestock 1 cargo ship.

Two survivors and the body of a third crew member were found before the search was suspended, and the coast guard said it will resume the operation when Haishen clears the region.

typhoon Haishen tropical cyclone japan
A woman walks in heavy rain as Typhoon Haishen approaches in Kagoshima, Kagoshima prefecture on September 6, 2020. Photo: AFP/Charly Triballeau

Charly Triballeau, with Hiroshi Hiyama in Tokyo © Agence France-Presse

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Presh JM Reporter

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