Written by Makiko Inoue, Eimi Yamamitsu and Motoko Rich
Typhoon Hagibis swirled toward Japan early Saturday morning, as residents in the most vulnerable areas moved to evacuation centers and forecasters issued extreme weather warnings for multiple prefectures along the country’s eastern coast.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said early Saturday that the typhoon was about 200 miles southwest of Hachiojima, a tiny island off the central east coast, with winds of about 100 mph at its centre. The agency said the storm was expected to make landfall Saturday evening.
At a news conference Friday morning, the agency warned that Hagibis could be as severe as the Kanogawa Typhoon, one of the deadliest on record, killing more than 1,200 people when it hit Shizuoka prefecture and the Tokyo region in 1958.
The agency said the southeastern Tokai region could be deluged by close to 40 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. The central region including Tokyo could receive as much as 24 inches during the period. The agency warned of flooding, mudslides and waves as high as 42 feet along the coast.
Japan Railways suspended service throughout the Tokyo region and bullet train service between Tokyo and Osaka and between Osaka and Fukuoka, on the island of Kyushu, on Saturday.
All Nippon Airways canceled all its domestic and international flights from airports in the Tokyo area Saturday, and Japan Airlines said it would cancel flights from multiple airports throughout the country, including those serving Tokyo, Osaka and Sendai.
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On Saturday morning, Tokyo Electric Company reported about 5,800 households were without power.
The Disneyland and DisneySea theme parks in Tokyo were scheduled to be closed Saturday, the first such closure for a typhoon, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said it would close attractions like Ueno Zoo and Hamarikyu Gardens. Hundreds of supermarkets and department stores across Tokyo and surrounding prefectures also closed.
In Chiba prefecture, where a typhoon last month caused severe damage, several municipalities opened evacuation centers. Many homes damaged in September were still covered in large blue tarps.
Experts said that Chiba, where about 900,000 people lost power in September, would be particularly vulnerable as it had not yet recovered from Typhoon Faxai, and many buildings that were partly damaged during that storm could be destroyed this time.