Typhoon Jebi — the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years — clipped Tokushima Prefecture in western Japan on Tuesday, heading north-northeast, disrupting transportation and leading authorities to call for early evacuations in areas in its path.The Meteorological Agency warned of heavy rains and strong winds in both the western and eastern regions of the country as the typhoon made landfall first in the southern part of Tokushima Prefecture around noon. The storm made landfall again around 2 p.m. near Kobe.
Jebi had earlier been recorded traveling at a speed of about 55 kilometers per hour. It was packing winds of up to 216 kph with an atmospheric pressure of 950 hectopascals at its center.Nationwide, the storm forced the cancelation of around 800 domestic and international flights, while commercial facilities such as a popular theme park in Osaka and department stores were also closed.The agency, which also warned of high waves, has called on the public to remain vigilant against flooding and mudslides spurred by the typhoon.
Evacuation orders have been issued in some areas of Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hyogo, Kagawa, Ehime and Wakayama prefectures. In Japan, evacuation orders are not mandatory and people often stay at home, only to be trapped by rapidly rising water or sudden landslides.Gifu, Aichi and Mie prefectures also reported blackouts.Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga encouraged the public to “evacuate early” and said at a news conference that the government will “take all possible means” to prepare for a possible crisis.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been traveling across the in a bid to bolster his support ahead of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership election later this month, canceled his trip to the Kyushu region to deal with the typhoon.Abe had faced criticism over his initial response to heavy rain that pounded western Japan in July, given that he and some other ministers were found to have been drinking at a gathering of the LDP lawmakers in Tokyo as the situation became increasingly grim.
Japan has been hit by a succession of typhoons and disasters related to heavy rain, including massive flooding and landslides that left more than 220 people dead in July.The agency said the Typhoon Jebi is expected to pass over the Sea of Japan by late Tuesday and move northward, and by Wednesday morning, weaken to an extra tropical cyclone.In Tokushima Prefecture, wind and rain strengthened after it made landfall. A 67-year-old man in the town of Itano hit his back after falling over while trying cover the roof of his house with a sheet. Another man in his 60s fell two meters into a rice paddy in the city of Mima.Bracing for Jebi, domestic airlines have played it safe, canceling a number of local and international flights mainly scheduled to depart and arrive in airports in western and central Japan.
All Nippon Airways Co. and Japan Airlines Co. have canceled 309 and 264 flights, respectively.Railway operators also halted some services, including on the Tokaido Shinkansen and Sanyo Shinkansen lines. Some expressway sections were also expected to be closed off.Hiroki Nakaya, a 21-year-old university student who was traveling to the Kansai region from Kanagawa Prefecture, said at JR Osaka Station said the storm had prompted him to consider changing his travel plans.“I heard on the news that JR lines would stop. I was planning to go to Kyoto, but I’m not yet able to make up my mind,” he said.
Tomonori Kawaguchi, a 63-year-old company employee who lives in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, who was on his way to his office said he planned to “head home earlier.”At JR Hiroshima Station, a 20-year-old tourist who was hoping to return to her home in Kanagawa Prefecture said she missed the bullet train she wanted to take.“This is horrible. I might not be able to return” for a while, she said.Department stores and popular tourist attractions in western Japan, including Osaka and Kyoto prefectures, also fell victim to the typhoon, with many closing for the day.USJ Co., the operator wind of Universal Studios Japan in Osaka, closed its park and few people were seen in the usually bustling surrounding areas.
The typhoon also affected factory operations, including Suntory Holdings Ltd.’s Yamazaki Distillery in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture.In Kyoto, the Kyoto City Zoo, the Kyoto Aquarium, and Nijo Castle were closed.“We’re not sure yet if we’ll be open on Wednesday. It depends on the typhoon. But for the safety of our visitors, we decided to close today,” Hiromi Kamiguchi, a spokeswoman for Nijo Castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, said Tuesday morning.
Also Tuesday, the Imperial Household Agency said it was not accepting visits to the Kyoto Imperial Palace and other Imperial facilities in the city due to bad weather.In the 24-hour period through 6 a.m. on Wednesday, up to 500 mm of rain may fall in central Japan and up to 400 mm in the country’s west.Strong gusts of up to 216 kph could hit some parts of the west, the Meteorological Agency said.While the western and central regions are likely to be hard hit, the effects of the typhoon are unlikely to be felt closer to the Japanese capital of Tokyo.