(Sept 4): Typhoon Jebi made landfall in western Japan on Tuesday, the strongest tropical cyclone to come ashore in Japan in 25 years, and has picked up speed as it bears down on one of Japan’s most densely populated areas.
The storm has paralyzed Japan’s second-largest population centre, with flights and trains canceled across the Kansai region, companies forced to temporarily close their plants, and power cut to more than 350,000 homes and offices.
Jebi, the 21st typhoon of the season, had made landfall in Kobe, west of Osaka and Kyoto, as of 2:10 p.m., after earlier sweeping Japan’s smallest main island of Shikoku.
The typhoon was carrying strong winds of up to 162 kilometers per hour (100 mph), according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, with gusts of up to 206 kph measured in Wakayama. That makes it a "very strong" typhoon, the second-highest on the JMA’s scale. It’s the first time for a typhoon to maintain that strength while making landfall since 1993.
The typhoon has ground business to a halt in one of Japan’s main industrial centres. About 350,000 buildings were without power as of 2:15 p.m., according to regional utilities, mostly in Wakayama prefecture. More than 680,000 people had been issued evacuation orders or advisories, Asahi reported.
West Japan Railway Co halted all local services in the area’s three main cities, with some subway lines in Osaka also stopped. Shinkansen high-speed trains between Tokyo to Hiroshima were canceled.
ANA Holdings Inc and Japan Airlines Co canceled a total of 560 domestic and 13 international flights, while Kansai International Airport closed its runways as the typhoon approached, local broadcaster NHK reported. The Universal Studios Japan theme park, one of Osaka’s main tourist draws, will shut down for the entire day.
Authorities called on residents to avoid any unnecessary trips outside, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe canceled a planned trip to Fukuoka in the southern island of Kyushu to deal with the disaster response.
Toyota Motor Corp halted operations at most of its group plants, and Honda Motor Co stopped its Suzuka plant in Mie prefecture. Kyocera Corp, Murata Manufacturing Co, Panasonic Corp and Shiseido Co were among manufacturers halting some of their facilities.
After hitting western Japan, Jebi is set to speed up further as it passes over the main island of Honshu and into the Sea of Japan, where it will weaken. While Tokyo will be spared the worst of the storm, authorities have warned of very strong winds and heavy rain even in the capital.
The typhoon is also bringing further downpours to areas that were devastated by sudden rainfall in early July that killed more than 200 people. Jebi is predicted to bring heavy rains through Wednesday.
Jebi is the fourth typhoon to make landfall in Japan this season. Recent years have seen an increase in the number of typhoons directly hitting Japan, with at least four making landfall every year since 2014.