Two million people in Japan were asked Saturday to seek shelter before Typhoon Nanmadol arrived, NHK reported, as the weather agency issued a rare “special warning” about the powerful storm.
The NHK, which compiles alerts from local authorities, said Level 4 evacuation instructions – the second highest – were in effect for people in Kagoshima, Kumamoto and Miyazaki in the southern Kyushu region.
The move comes as the Japan Meteorological Agency issued the highest alert in the Kagoshima region, a warning that comes when it predicts conditions seen only once every several decades.
It is the first special typhoon-related warning issued outside the Okinawa region since the current system began in 2013.
On Saturday evening, Typhoon Nanmadol was rated at the agency’s highest category of “violent,” packing wind gusts of up to 270 kilometers (167 miles) as it circled about 200 kilometers northeast of Minami Daito, part of a chain of The remote islands that make up the Okinawa region.
The storm is expected to approach or make landfall on Sunday in Kagoshima Prefecture, then move north the next day before heading toward Japan’s main island.
“There are risks of unprecedented storms, high waves, storm surge and record precipitation,” Ryota Korura, head of the forecasting unit at the Japan Meteorological Agency, told reporters.
“The utmost caution is required,” he said, urging residents to evacuate early.
“It’s a very dangerous hurricane.”
“The winds will be so strong that some houses may collapse,” Korora told reporters. He also warned of the occurrence of floods and landslides.
Evacuation warnings are calling for people to move to alternative shelter or housing that can withstand severe weather.
But it is not mandatory, and during past severe weather events authorities have struggled to persuade residents to take cover quickly enough.
Korora said that even inside sturdy buildings, residents should take precautions.
“Please move to sturdy buildings before the strong winds start to descend and stay away from windows even inside strong buildings,” he said at a late-night news conference.
Japan is currently experiencing typhoon season and experiences about 20 such storms annually, and routinely experiences heavy rain that causes landslides or flash floods.
In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan where it hosted the Rugby World Cup, killing more than 100 people.
A year ago, Typhoon Jebi closed the Kansai Airport in Osaka, killing 14 people.
And in 2018, floods and landslides killed more than 200 people in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.
Before Typhoon Nanmadol arrived, flight cancellations began to affect regional airports including those in Kagoshima, Miyazaki and Kumamoto, according to the websites of Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways.
Scientists say climate change is increasing the intensity of storms and causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather such as heat waves, droughts and flash floods.