A rare “special warning” has been issued as a severe typhoon approaches Japan Japan

Cyclone “Nanmadol” has reached the southwest Japan Sunday night, authorities are urging millions of people to take shelter from the powerful storm’s strong winds and torrential rain.

The storm officially made landfall at around 19:00 local time (11:00 BST) as it reached its eyewall – the region outside the eye – near Kagoshima, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

It packed winds of nearly 150 mph and dumped up to 500 mm of rain in less than 24 hours on parts of southwestern Kyushu.

At least 20,000 people spent the night in shelters in Kyushu’s Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, where the JMA issued a rare “special warning” – a warning issued when it predicts conditions seen only once in a few decades.

National broadcaster NHK, which collects data from local authorities, said more than 7 million people were ordered to move to shelters or take shelter in fortified buildings to escape the storm.

Evacuation warnings are not mandatory, and officials have sometimes struggled to convince people to move to shelters ahead of extreme weather. They spent the weekend trying to drive home their concerns about the weather system.

“Please stay away from dangerous places and please evacuate if you feel the slightest danger,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said after calling a government meeting on the storm.

“It will be dangerous to evacuate at night. Please move to safety while it is still light outside.”

The JMA warned that the region could face unprecedented danger due to strong winds, storm surges and torrential rains, calling the storm “very dangerous”.

“Areas affected by the storm are seeing unprecedented rainfall,” Hiro Kato, head of the Weather Monitoring and Warning Center, told reporters on Sunday.

Especially in the areas under the landslide warning, the possibility of some types of landslides already occurring is extremely high.”

I called for “maximum caution even in areas where disasters do not usually occur.”

As of Sunday evening, utility companies said about 200,000 people in the region were without power. Trains, flights and ferries were canceled until the storm passed, and even some stores — usually open all hours and considered a lifesaver in disasters — closed their doors.

“The southern part of the Kyushu region may see unprecedented high winds, high waves and high tides,” the JMA said on Sunday, urging people to “exercise the highest possible caution”.

On the ground, an official in Kagoshima’s Izumi city said the situation was rapidly deteriorating by Sunday afternoon.

“The wind was extremely strong. It is also raining heavily,” he told AFP. “It’s completely white out here. Visibility is almost zero.”

The storm, which has weakened slightly as it approaches land, is expected to turn northeast and sweep over Japan’s main island on Wednesday morning.

Japan is currently in typhoon season and experiences 20 such storms a year, regularly seeing heavy rains that cause landslides or floods. In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan as it hosted the Rugby World Cup, killing more than 100 people.

A year ago, Typhoon Jebi closed Osaka’s Kansai Airport and killed 14 people. And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.

Scientists say the climate crisis is increasing the intensity of storms and making extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods more frequent and intense.

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