National

Massive Typhoon Hagibis bears down on central Japan

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

As a powerful typhoon threatened to make landfall in central or eastern Honshu over the weekend, railways and supermarkets announced plans to suspend or minimize operations for much of Saturday.

In a statement Friday, the Meteorological Agency said Typhoon Hagibis, the 19th named storm of the season, was projected to hit either the Tokai region or the Kanto region on Saturday evening or later and grind its way north through Tohoku.

The typhoon, considered the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale used in the United States, is forecast to bring fierce winds and downpours to a large swath of the mainland, the agency said.

At a Friday morning news conference, agency official Yasushi Kajihara said the storm was such a threat that a special heavy rain warning might be issued.

According to the agency, Hagibis could trigger record rainfall on par with a deadly typhoon in 1958 that triggered mudslides in Kanto and flooded the Kano River in Shizuoka Prefecture, leaving 888 dead and 381 missing.

Major transportation disruptions are in store this weekend.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) announced Friday that it will suspend many train runs Saturday.

The Shonan-Shinjuku Line, for example, will be halted for the entire day, with other major routes, including the Chuo, Yamanote, Saikyo and Keihin Tohoku lines, being halted at around noon. It will also significantly scale back bullet train runs, with few shinkansen slated to depart from Tokyo after 1 p.m., it said.

Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central) meanwhile said it will cancel all shinkansen services between Tokyo and Nagoya throughout Saturday, while West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) plans suspensions between Shin-Osaka and Okayama stations from the afternoon onward.

Supermarkets are going the extra mile on safety precautions.

In a rather unusual step, major chain Ito Yokado said it will close 124 outlets in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Gifu, Shizuoka and Aichi prefectures throughout Saturday. Department store Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings announced the same day that its Shinjuku, Ginza and Ebisu stores in Tokyo will close on Saturday as well.

Theme parks are no exception either. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea will close on Saturday for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake struck in 2011, operator Oriental Land Co. said. Universal Studios Japan said its Osaka facility will do the same.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it will halt plants in Fukuoka, Mie and Gifu prefectures.

Shigeo Kannaka, a director of Japan Bosai (Disaster Prevention) Society, urged caution against the prolonged power and water outages that Typhoon Faxai caused last month in Chiba Prefecture.

Asked what measures households can take to prepare for such contingencies, Kannaka recommended filling bathtubs, kettles and buckets with water that can later be used to flush toilets and fulfill other domestic purposes. Flashlights, lanterns and portable radios will also come in handy in the event of a power failure, he said.

Other safety precautions, he said, include taping windows in all directions to prevent them from fragmenting when they break, stocking up on enough potable water for three days, and topping up the gas tanks of cars and other vehicles.

Residents are also advised to charge their smartphone batteries, secure laundry poles and empty fridges of perishable food that could spoil in a power outage.

While Hagibis is likely to prove a headache, perhaps few dread its approach as much as residents in Chiba who are still recovering from the havoc wreaked by Faxai just a month ago.

Kenzo Takeba, a loquat farmer in Minamiboso who saw 90 percent of his trees decimated by the typhoon, said the town is nowhere near ready for another natural disaster.

“The only thing we can do to prepare for another strong typhoon is to cover the damaged roofs with blue plastic sheets and put sandbags on. Things are so severely damaged already we really can’t do anything more,” he said.

“I cannot even find masking tape in any hardware stores in my town. The city was giving them away for free before, but they said they had run out of them as well.”

Staff writer Chisato Tanaka contributed to this report. Information from Kyodo added.

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