TOKYO (Reuters) – A powerful typhoon approached Japan on Friday, threatening to batter its capital with the heaviest rain and winds in 60 years, shutting down stores, factories and subway systems and disrupting a Formula One Grand Prix and rugby’s World Cup.
Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, is due to make landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu on Saturday, a month after one of the strongest typhoons to hit the country in recent years destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses and caused extensive power outages.
The storm could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958 and people should also prepare for high waves and storm surges, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
“The typhoon could bring record-level rainfall and winds,” an official at the agency told a news conference, also citing the risk of floods and landslides.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered his cabinet ministers to do their utmost to ensure the safety of the public.
Authorities begain issuing evacuation advisories to areas particularly at risk, including the coastal city of Shimoda in Shizuoka, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) southwest of Tokyo, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Tokyo Electric Power <9501.T> said it would have around 17,000 staff standing by to help cope with possible outages, NHK said.
Officials in Chiba prefecture east of Tokyo, which was hit hard by typhoon Faxai a month ago, have told people to prepare supplies of food and water for up to three days.
Some supermarkets ran out of bottled water and batteries. Twitter users posted photographs of bare shelves and traded tips on how to prepare for disruptions to water and power cuts.
Many of more than 30,000 houses Typhoon Faxai destroyed or damaged in Chiba last month have yet to be repaired.
(For a graphic on ‘Map showing path of Super Typhoon Hagibis’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2MsGDht)
Japanese Formula One Grand Prix organisers cancelled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday, adding that the qualifying round would be held on Sunday, before the final race takes place as planned.
The approaching super typhoon has already forced the cancellation of two matches of the rugby World Cup on Saturday, while a Sunday match between host Japan and Scotland is in doubt.
Airline ANA Holdings <9202.T> cancelled all domestic flights to and from Tokyo’s two main airports from Friday afternoon.
It and rival Japan Airlines Co <9201.T> cancelled some flights to and from airports servicing the major cities of Osaka and Nagoya.
Most flights operating to and from those airports will be cancelled on Saturday, both airlines said on their websites.
Train operators said they would suspend bullet trains between Tokyo and Nagoya in central Japan and most operations between Nagoya and Osaka, in western Japan, from Saturday morning.
Train and subway lines in Tokyo are also due to be shut down.
Tokyo Disneyland said it would close its theme park on Saturday, its first weather-related closure since a snowstorm in 1984. Retail giant Seven & i Holdings <3382.T> said it would shut its supermarkets and department stores in metropolitan Tokyo.
Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> announced it was suspending production at three factories.
Storm surges are expected along the Pacific coast of Honshu on Saturday and Sunday, as is torrential rain, raising the risk of floods and landslides.
Typhoon Ida, known as the “Kanogawa Typhoon” in Japanese, killed more than 1,000 people in 1958.
(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando, Naomi Tajitsu, Tim Kelly and Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Robert Birsel, Gerry Doyle and Gareth Jones)