TOKYO — The Japanese authorities on Sunday ordered more than a million residents of western Japan to seek shelter as a major storm lashed the coast with high winds and threatened record-breaking flooding.
As of 7 a.m. Monday, the storm, Typhoon Haishen, had led to more than 448,000 homes in Kyushu losing power as it blew down trees and power lines, according to Kyushu Electric Power. At least 52 people were injured, according to the Kyodo news agency.
The storm had sat off the coast of the western island of Kyushu gathering power and creating chaos in the region, where it also disrupted flights and trains.
Local officials ordered 1.8 million people to evacuate seven prefectures across the region and had recommended that 5.8 million others across 11 prefectures seek shelter ahead of the storm. The orders remained in place on Monday morning as the storm passed by Japan and made landfall in the Korean Peninsula, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency had issued its highest-level warning for the storm, cautioning that it would bring record-high tides and that residents should be prepared for “large-scale flooding.”
“High tides combined with large waves could top coastal sea walls and inundate a wide area,” it said in a statement on its website Sunday afternoon. It kept in place warnings for residents to take shelter as heavy wind and rains were expected to continue throughout the day with the possibility of tornadoes.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned residents to listen to local authorities and “take immediate action to protect your life,” adding that the country’s Self-Defense Forces were prepared to offer aid in the event of widespread damage.
By Monday morning, fears for the worst seemed to be waning as the storm had largely passed the region. Nevertheless, it was powerful enough to create major disruptions in the area.
Rainfall of nearly 20 inches was recorded over 24 hours in the town of Misato in Kyushu’s Miyazaki Prefecture.
Japan Railways said it would cancel some bullet train service in the region through Monday evening. And All Nippon Airways said it had canceled hundreds of flights across Kyushu, Shikoku, Okinawa and other parts of Japan through Tuesday.
The 7-Eleven convenience store chain said it had closed more than 2,000 outlets across the area affected by the storm.
Haishen is the second major storm of this year’s typhoon season, which has been unusually calm so far. Typhoon Maysak grazed Kyushu this past week before heading to the Korean Peninsula.
The storm capsized a China-bound cattle ship off the coast, leaving dozens of crew members missing. Japan’s Coast Guard rescued two, but suspended its search as Haishen approached.
Typhoons are common in Japan, although the strength and severity of the storms have grown in recent years, a trend that climatologists have attributed to climate change.
Last October, Typhoon Hagibis blew through central Japan, killing about 100 people and causing more than $17 billion in economic damage. The typhoon raised concerns that Japan’s infrastructure is insufficient for the era of superstorms, when so-called hundred-year floods are becoming increasingly common.
This year, evacuation orders could be complicated by the coronavirus pandemic as evacuees worry about being exposed to the virus in local shelters.
Shelters in Kyushu’s Miyazaki city were accepting less than half of their normal capacity in order to allow for social distancing, according to NHK. Some evacuees were taking shelter at hotels in an effort to avoid evacuation facilities.