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Natural disasters

Supertyphoon menaces businesses in flood-hit southwest Japan

New storm on track to reach Kyushu on Sunday or Monday

Haishen is compared to a 1959 storm that left more than 5,000 dead or missing. (Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin/CIMSS)

TOKYO -- A powerful typhoon threatening record-breaking wind and rain for Japan has put companies and transportation networks on high alert, with some moving to cut operations starting this weekend.

Supertyphoon Haishen has drawn comparisons to a 1959 storm that battered the nation's Pacific coast, leaving more than 5,000 dead or missing.

In an unusually early series of warnings, weather authorities have been urging "maximum alertness" for days ahead of a possible landfall on southwestern Japan's island of Kyushu on Sunday or Monday. Companies have started taking precautions, with the experience of recent deadly floods fresh in mind.

Yamato Transport, the country's top home delivery company, canceled operations in Kyushu for all or part of Saturday, Sunday and Monday, depending on the location. Sagawa Express has called off parcel pickups across the island on both days.

Supply chains are under threat in Kyushu, which serves as a manufacturing base for companies in industries as diverse as electronics, shipbuilding and food.

Canon has called off production at factories in Kyushu on Monday. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has told workers at shipyards in Nagasaki, Shimonoseki and Hiroshima as well as other facilities not to report to work that day.

In the retail sector, industry leader Aeon is boosting inventories at supermarkets in Kyushu and Okinawa to prepare for possible interruptions in deliveries. Seven-Eleven Japan, the country's top convenience store chain, has prepared plans for rolling shutdowns of about 1,000 stores in the typhoon's path.

This year, authorities must contend with an added complication to evacuating and sheltering residents: the coronavirus. After torrential rains in July and the recent Typhoon Maysak, parts of Kyushu are at a high risk of landslides and other disasters, experts say.

"It's extremely rare for the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue warnings for a typhoon more than three days before it approaches," said Katsuya Yamori, a Kyoto University professor specializing in the psychology of natural disasters.

Yoshiteru Murosaki, a professor of disaster resilience at the Kobe-based University of Hyogo, said Haishen could bring "unprecedented wind and rain."

"Sheltering before the typhoon nears will save lives," Murosaki said.

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