Cyclone Nanmadol made landfall in the southwest Japan On Sunday night, officials urged millions of people to take shelter from the powerful storm’s high winds and heavy rain.
The typhoon officially made landfall around 7pm local time (11am BST) as its eyewall – the area outside the eye – approached Kagoshima, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
It has sustained winds of nearly 150 mph and some parts of southwestern Kyushu region have already received up to 500 mm of rain in less than 24 hours.
Local officials said several people were injured. In the city of Kushima, in southern Miyazaki Prefecture, a woman was slightly injured by shards of glass when wind broke windows at a gymnasium. National broadcaster NHK cited its own figure of 15 injured.
At least 20,000 people spent the night in shelters in Kyushu’s Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures, where the JMA has issued a rare “special warning” – a warning issued only when conditions are predicted to be seen once in decades.
National broadcaster NHK, which is gathering information from local authorities, said more than 7 million people were told to go to shelters or take shelter in sturdy buildings to ride out the storm.
Evacuation warnings are not mandatory, and officials have sometimes struggled to persuade people to take shelters before extreme weather. They spent the weekend trying to drive home their concerns about the weather system.
“Please stay away from dangerous areas, please evacuate if you feel even the slightest hint of danger,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida tweeted after convening a government meeting on the storm.
“Going out at night is dangerous. Please move to a safe place while it is still light outside.
The JMA warned that the region could face an unprecedented risk of high winds, storm surge and torrential rains and called the storm “highly dangerous”.
Hiro Kato, head of the Meteorological Monitoring and Warning Center, told reporters on Sunday, “The storm-hit areas are experiencing unprecedented rainfall.
“Especially in areas under a landslide warning, it is very possible that some type of landslide is already occurring.”
He stressed “maximum caution even in areas where disasters do not normally occur”.
By Sunday evening, nearly 200,000 homes across the region were without power, utility companies said. Trains, flights and ferries were canceled until the storm passed, and some shops – normally open around the clock and considered a lifeline in disasters – closed their doors.
“The southern part of the Kyushu region may experience violent winds, high tides and unprecedented high tides,” the JMA said on Sunday, urging people to exercise “possible caution”.
On the ground, an official in Kagoshima’s Izumi city said conditions were deteriorating rapidly on Sunday afternoon.
“The wind has become very strong. It is also raining heavily,” he told AFP. “It’s a total white-out. Visibility is almost zero.
The storm, which weakened slightly as it approached land, is expected to turn northeast and cross the main island of Japan on Wednesday morning.
Japan is now in typhoon season and faces 20 typhoons a year, regularly seeing heavy rains that cause landslides or flash floods. In 2019, Typhoon Hagibis claimed more than 100 lives when Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup.
A year ago, Typhoon Jebi closed Kansai Airport in Osaka, killing 14 people. And in 2018, more than 200 people were killed in floods and landslides in western Japan during the country’s annual rainy season.
Scientists say the climate crisis is increasing the intensity of storms, and extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and flash floods are becoming more frequent and intense.