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Tokyo area shuts down as powerful typhoon slams into country

Typhoon lashes Japan

A heavy downpour and strong winds pounded Tokyo and surrounding areas on Saturday as a powerful typhoon forecast to be Japan's worst in six decades made landfall and passed over the capital, where streets, nearby beaches and train stations were long deserted.

Store shelves were bare after people stocked up on water and food ahead of Typhoon Hagibis. The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of dangerously heavy rainfall in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures, including Gunma, Saitama and Kanagawa, and later expanded the area to include Fukushima and Miyagi to the north. A coastal earthquake also rattled the area.

"Be ready for rainfall of the kind that you have never experienced," said meteorological agency official Yasushi Kajihara, adding that areas usually safe from disasters may prove vulnerable.

"Take all measures necessary to save your life," he said.

Kajihara said people who live near rivers should take shelter on the second floor or higher of any sturdy building if an officially designated evacuation centre wasn't easily accessible.

Hagibis, which means "speed" in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with maximum sustained winds of 144 kilometres (90 miles) per hour, according to the meteorological agency. It was travelling northward at a speed of 40 kph (25 mph).

It reached Kawasaki, a western part of greater Tokyo, late Saturday and headed to Tsukuba city to the north about an hour later, before it was expected to swerve toward the sea, the agency said.

The storm brought heavy rainfall in wide areas of Japan all day ahead of its landfall, including in Shizuoka and Mie prefectures, southwest of Tokyo, as well as Chiba to the north, which saw power outages and damaged homes in a typhoon last month.

Under gloomy skies, a tornado ripped through Chiba on Saturday, overturning a car in the city of Ichihara and killing a man inside the vehicle, city official Tatsuya Sakamaki said. Five people were injured when the tornado ripped through a house. Their injuries were not life-threatening, Sakamaki said.

The heavy rain caused rivers to swell, and several had flooded by late Saturday. The wind flipped anchored boats and whipped up sea waters in a dangerous surge along the coast and areas near rivers, flooding some residential neighbourhoods and leaving people to wade in ankle-deep waters and cars floating. Some roads were so flooded they looked like muddy ditches.

An earthquake shook the area drenched by the rainfall shortly before the typhoon made landfall in Shizuoka prefecture Saturday evening. but there were no immediate reports of damage. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 5.3 quake was centred in the ocean off the coast of Chiba, near Tokyo, and was fairly deep, at 59.5 kilometres (37 miles). Deep quakes tend to cause less damage than shallow ones.

In Shizuoka, one of two men who went missing in the Nishikawa River was rescued, Gotemba city official Fumihiko Katsumata said. Firefighters said the two men were working at a river canal to try to control overflowing when they were swept away.



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