Thousands evacuated as typhoon nears Japan


More than a million people in Japan were warned to leave their homes on Tuesday as an approaching typhoon brought heavy rain and fears of landslides and flash flooding. Typhoon Roke, packing winds of up to 144 kilometres (89 miles) an hour near its centre, could land in central Japan Wednesday and move northeast, possibly towards the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, the Japanese weather agency said.
“While keeping its strength, the typhoon could make a land fall on Wednesday,” an official with the Japan Meteorological Agency said in a televised press conference.
“We ask that the highest level of caution be used because of the heavy rain, strong wind, and high waves.” The city of Nagoya, a regional commercial hub located near the home of Toyota Motor, issued an evacuation advisory to some 1.09 million residents at one point because of worries that rivers might burst their banks. The advisory was lifted from parts of the city, but landslide, flooding and tornado warnings affecting over a million people were still in place as night fell.
Water has poured into Nagoya’s subway system and underpasses, with television images showing pedestrians wading knee-deep in water, helped by firefighters with rafts. The city asked for Self Defense Force troops to be deployed to assist with rescues, transport, and engineering damage. Nationwide, evacuation advisories have been issued to a total of 1.32 million people, national broadcaster NHK said. It was not known how many people have heeded the evacuation warning, which falls far short of a mandatory evacuation order.
At least two people were reported missing in central Gifu prefecture, possibly swept away in a swollen waterway and a river, Jiji Press said. Rain and runoff water flooded residential areas and major local streets in southern and western regions. Heavy rain stopped trains and forced officials to close highways.
The typhoon was located 330 kilometres south of the Shikoku island as of 6:00 pm (0900 GMT), and was on course to approach Nagoya and the main island of Honshu Wednesday afternoon, the weather agency said. The storm was then expected to move towards the disaster-ravaged Tohoku region north of Tokyo, with the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant located on its possible path. Roke was expected to move to northernmost Hokkaido by Thursday afternoon, the weather official said. “Its speed will accelerate. In similar cases in the past, we have seen strong wind and high waves occur suddenly. Rain will increase in northern Japan. We ask that people take early counter-measures,” he said.