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Natural disasters

Powerful storm set to slam west Japan during summer holiday peak

Many events canceled amid expected shutdown of highways and bullet trains

Waves battered the city of Miyazaki's coast on Aug. 13 as the severe tropical storm approached Japan.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- A severe tropical storm barreling toward western Japan is expected to make landfall on Thursday and disrupt travel plans for a major summer holiday.

Japanese officials presume that the storm, named Krosa, will force the closure of expressways across a wide area, along with the shutdown of shinkansen bullet trains. Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's major islands in the west, is expected to be deluged with 1,000 millimeters of rain during the 24-hour period through noon Thursday.

"In order for all to protect their own lives and the lives of loved ones, we urge quick and speedy evacuation and the assurance of safety," said Ryuta Kurora, chief forecaster at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Japan celebrates the Bon holiday each year from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16. People typically travel for family reunions during this period, and Thursday is forecast to be the peak travel day for the return home.

But the anticipated closure of major roads as well as the Kyushu and Sanyo shinkansen lines serving western Japan would leave many people stranded. Flights arriving and departing from the Kyushu region will be grounded starting Wednesday.

One hotel in Kobe reports that roughly 20% of the reservations for Wednesday and Thursday have been canceled.

"We imagine that [cancellations] will mount going forward," a media representative for the hotel said. A hot springs resort in Kyushu's Kagoshima Prefecture received several requests to change reservations from Thursday to different days.

A fireworks festival in Hiroshima Prefecture scheduled for Thursday has been canceled, given the potential for the storm to capsize boats from which the displays are launched. Another fireworks display planned that day for a Nara Prefecture city was called off as well.

The Awa Dance Festival in Shikoku's Tokushima Prefecture opened Monday, but will not be held Wednesday -- the first cancellation in 16 years. A decision is still pending for Thursday, the last day.

Krosa first appeared near the Mariana Islands on Aug. 6. The storm remained near the Bonin Islands south of Japan until it developed into a major system on Monday.

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