Typhoon Haishen Closes in as Japan Braces for Record Wind and Rain

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Powerful Typhoon Haishen roared toward southern Japan on Sunday, bringing violent winds and heavy rains, with officials warning it could be strong enough to snap power poles and flip vehicles.

Haishen, categorized as “large” and “extremely strong,” was expected to move through the Amami group of islands near Kyushu later in the afternoon.

Authorities had recommended evacuation and warned of potentially record rainfall, unprecedented wind, high tides and large ocean swells.

“Areas where the typhoon passes are expected to see record high winds and waves,” a Meteorology Agency official told a nationally televised news conference on Sunday. “I am urging everyone to take the utmost caution, follow local authorities’ instructions and protect your own life. Once you enter an area of high wind, you may not be able to move to a safer place.”

The storm was forecast to head north-northwest and travel off the western coast of Kyushu from the evening through early Monday before reaching South Korea, according to the Meteorological Agency.

As of 1 p.m. Sunday, the typhoon was moving north-northwest at a speed of about 30 km per hour some 170 km off Yakushima island. It had an atmospheric pressure of 935 hectopascals at its center, packing winds of up to 234 kilometers per hour.

Southern areas of Kyushu could see rainfall of up to 600 millimeters in the 24 hours to 6 a.m. Monday, the agency said. Amami, northern Kyushu and the Tokai central region on Honshu could see up to 400 mm.

Winds of up to 182.5 kilometers per hour were observed in the village of Minamidaito in Okinawa early Sunday morning, according to the agency.

Hundreds of thousands of residents of Kyushu have been advised to seek safety at shelters, including all of the 250,000 residents of the city of Kagoshima and the 36,600 residents in Goto, Nagasaki, which are at risk of a direct hit by the typhoon.

Rather than evacuating to designated local schools and community centers, some residents have chosen to seek safety at local hotels to try and reduce the risk of coronavirus infections at crowded public shelters, according to local media.

The storm has forced the cancellation of 528 flights, according to NHK.

Kyushu Railway Co. said its bullet and local train services will be suspended on Monday, while West Japan Railway Co. has decided to cancel Sanyo Shinkansen services between Hiroshima and Hakata stations all day Monday.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it would suspend operations at three plants in Kyushu until Monday evening, while other companies, including Canon and Mitsubishi Electric, reportedly planned to take similar measures.

Haishen also forced the Japan Coast Guard to suspend its search for dozens of missing sailors from a cargo ship that sank in a separate storm, after two crew members were rescued.

The Gulf Livestock 1, carrying 6,000 cows and had 43 crew on board, issued a distress call Wednesday near Amami Oshima as Typhoon Maysak passed through the area.

But patrol ships have remained in the sea so that the search can resume after Haishen leaves the region, a duty officer said.

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