A powerful typhoon approaching southwestern Japan has intensified into a dangerous storm, with officials warning of record rainfall, huge waves and high tides.
The approach of Typhoon Haishen comes after Typhoon Maysak left at least 20 injured in Kyushu before making landfall on the Korean Peninsula.
That storm caused widespread blackouts in Kyushu and led to the suspension of some bullet trains and flights in the region. In South Korea, the storm killed at least two people and caused widespread power outages, reports said.
Separately, the Japan Coast Guard said on Friday that it rescued a man likely to be a crew member from a capsized ship carrying cattle. The man was unconscious and transferred to the hospital, it added in a statement. He was found about 120 kilometers north-northwest of Amami Oshima island. A life jacket and a cattle carcass were collected in the area, it said.
The Coast Guard said earlier on Friday it was still searching for more than 40 crew members who went missing after the ship carrying cattle from New Zealand to China capsized.
Typhoon Haishen, forecast to near Okinawa by Sunday, has the potential to be even more dangerous. On Thursday, a Meteorological Agency official urged residents of Kyushu and Okinawa to brace for the storm.
"People in affected areas should not hesitate to evacuate their homes and find shelter, even though they may be worried about becoming infected with the new coronavirus," the official said.
In an online meeting with government officials earlier in the day, Ryota Takeda, minister for disaster management, urged people to brace for the approaching typhoon, calling on them to remain alert and not go out unnecessarily.
The typhoon is projected to have an atmospheric pressure of 915 hectopascals at its center and winds of up to 288 kilometers per hour on Sunday, warranting a special alert, the weather agency official said. That strength would put it on par with a Category 5 hurricane. While the storm is expected to weaken slightly as it moves toward Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula, it will still be powerful and dangerous, forecasts show.
In an effort to prevent damage from floods caused by the typhoon, water was being discharged at nine dams in Wakayama, Nagasaki and Kagoshima prefectures on Friday morning, the land ministry said. Such discharges were planned for other dams as well.
Meteorologist Robert Speta, a Western Pacific weather expert, said Typhoon Haishen could match Hurricane Laura — which made landfall in Louisiana in August — as the strongest storm on the planet this year. Speta said Kagoshima Prefecture's Amami Islands could face winds on par with a Category 4 or 5 hurricane but that for Kyushu, the bigger threat could be heavy rain and mudslides.
Speta said Typhoon Haishen was being powered in part by high sea-surface temperatures. "Right now Haishen is moving over a hot bed of warm water upwards of 31 to 32 degrees," he said.
With such temperatures rising globally, more dangerous storms are likely to maintain their strength at higher latitudes, Speta said.
This week, the Meteorological Agency said that sea-surface temperatures south of Japan were considerably higher than normal in August, with many areas marking record highs since 1982, when comparable data became available. The higher temperatures are expected to continue this month, the agency said, warning that typhoons tend to maintain their development and strength when passing over warm seas.
A report released last month by Climate Central, an organization of scientists and journalists, said climate change is increasing the frequency and duration of marine heat waves, which can contribute to stronger storms while also impacting ecosystems. Over the last 100 years, sea-surface temperatures have risen by 1.3 degrees Celsius, increasing the likelihood of marine heat waves, the report said.
Information from Kyodo and Reuters added