Typhoon Nanmadol made landfall in the southwest Japan On Sunday night, authorities urged millions of people to seek shelter from the powerful storm’s high winds and torrential rain.
The storm officially made landfall around 7 p.m. local time (11 a.m. BST) when its eye wall – the region just outside the eye – made landfall near Kagoshima, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
It packed gusts of up to nearly 150mph and had already dumped up to 500mm of rain on parts of the southwestern Kyushu region in less than 24 hours.
Local officials said several people were injured. In the city of Kushima, southern Miyazaki Prefecture, a woman was slightly injured by broken glass when winds smashed the windows of a gym. The national television station NHK, citing its own record, reported that 15 people had been injured.
At least 20,000 people spent the night in temporary shelters in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures in Kyushu, where the JMA has issued a rare “special alert” — an alert only issued when it forecasts conditions that occur once in several decades.
National broadcaster NHK, which collects information from local authorities, said more than 7 million people have been ordered to move to emergency shelters or take refuge in sturdy buildings to weather the storm.
The evacuation warnings are not mandatory and authorities have at times struggled to persuade people to move to temporary shelters before extreme weather conditions. They tried to clarify their concerns about the weather system throughout the weekend.
“Please stay away from dangerous places and please evacuate if you feel even the slightest hint of danger,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted after calling a government meeting on the storm.
“It will be dangerous to evacuate at night. Please get to safety while it’s still light outside.”
The JMA has warned the region could face unprecedented danger from strong winds, storm surges and torrential rain, calling the storm “very dangerous”.
“Storm-affected areas are seeing rain like never before,” Hiro Kato, head of the Weather Monitoring and Warning Center, told reporters on Sunday.
“Particularly in areas where landslide warnings are in place, it is very likely that some types of landslides are already happening.”
He warned “maximum caution even in areas where disasters do not normally happen”.
As of Sunday evening, utilities said nearly 200,000 homes across the region were without power. Trains, flights and ferries have been canceled pending the storm’s passage, and even some grocery stores – which are generally open 24 hours a day and are considered a lifeline during disasters – closed their doors.
“The southern part of the Kyushu region may experience fierce winds, high waves and high tides that have never been experienced before,” the JMA said Sunday, urging people “to exercise the utmost caution.”
On the ground, an official in the town of Izumi in Kagoshima said conditions deteriorated rapidly Sunday afternoon.
“The wind has become extremely strong. It’s also raining heavily,” he told AFP. “It’s a total white-out out there. Visibility is almost zero.”
The storm, which weakened slightly as it neared land, is expected to turn northeast and sweep across Japan’s main island on Wednesday morning.
Japan is currently in typhoon season and faces 20 such storms a year, with regular heavy rains causing landslides or flash floods. In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis slammed into Japan while it was hosting the Rugby World Cup, claiming the lives of more than 100 people.
A year earlier, Typhoon Jebi paralyzed Osaka’s Kansai Airport, killing 14 people. And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people during the country’s annual rainy season in western Japan.
Scientists say the climate crisis is increasing the severity of storms, causing extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and flash floods to become more frequent and intense.