Saturday, the Japan Meteorological Agency warned of “unprecedented” risks from the “very dangerous” typhoon Nanmadol approaching the southern island of Kyushu, urging residents to seek shelter before the storm.
Typhoon Nanmadol produced winds of up to 270 kilometres per hour and was classified as a “violent” storm, the agency’s highest classification.
By late afternoon, it was 400 kilometres east of Okinawa and approaching the remote island of Minami Daito.
The storm will approach or make landfall in southern Kagoshima prefecture on Kyushu on Sunday, then move north the next day before heading towards Japan’s main island.
“There is a chance of unprecedented storms, high waves, storm surges, and record rainfall,” Ryuta Kurora, head of the forecast unit at the Japan Meteorological Agency, told reporters.
“Extreme caution is necessary,” he said, urging residents to evacuate as soon as possible. It is an extremely hazardous typhoon.” Kurora stated that the weather agency was likely to issue its highest alert for the Kagoshima region later on Saturday.
Known as “special warnings,” these are only issued when the JMA predicts conditions that occur once every few decades.
Since the current system was adopted in 2013, this would be the first typhoon-related special warning issued outside of Okinawa.
“The wind from Typhoon Nanmadol will be so strong that some houses may collapse,” Kurora warned reporters, adding that flooding and landslides were also possible.
A level four evacuation “instruction” is already in effect for 330,000 people in Kagoshima, and authorities urged residents to move to shelters or alternative housing before issuing a level five call.
In Japan, evacuation warnings are voluntary, and authorities struggled to persuade residents to seek shelter quickly enough during previous extreme weather events.
Japan is in the midst of typhoon season and experiences approximately 20 typhoons per year, as well as frequent heavy rainfall that causes mudslides and flash floods.
In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis struck Japan while hosting the Rugby World Cup, killing more than 100 people. A year earlier, Typhoon Jebi shut down Kansai Airport in Osaka, resulting in the deaths of fourteen people.
During Japan’s annual rainy season in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan.
According to the websites of Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, regional airports, including those in Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kumamoto, began to experience flight cancellations before Typhoon Nanmadol.
Heat waves, droughts, and flash floods are becoming more frequent and intense, according to climate change, which also increases the severity of storms.