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Natural disasters

Typhoon Hagibis pummels Japan, leaving 8 dead; 12 missing

Rivers rise to dangerous levels across the country

Shinkansen bullet trains are submerged at their base in Akanuma, Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, after the Chikuma River overflowed due to Typhoon Hagibis.   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- A powerful typhoon barreled north off the Pacific coast of Japan early Sunday morning after wreaking havoc in the capital and northeastern parts of the mainland, leaving at least eight people dead and 12 missing.

Typhoon Hagibis, believed to be one of the strongest storms Japan has experienced in decades, brought torrential rains to the Tokyo metropolitan area, paralyzing transit systems and shutting down commercial facilities. Over 6 million people across Japan were advised to evacuate, but the evacuation advisories have since been lifted.

Eight people have been confirmed dead including Chiba, Gunma and Kanagawa prefectures. 

Water levels rose in many rivers across Japan, breaching levees in Nagano Prefecture's Chikuma River and flooding area residences. Self-Defense Forces personnel have been dispatched to rescue stranded residents.  

In Tokyo, Tama River flooded in Setagaya Ward. Authorities took emergency measures to release water from several dams to prevent them from bursting.

The impact has spread to the ongoing World Rugby Cup games, with the organizers cancelling a match between Namibia and Canada, scheduled to take place Sunday in Kamaishi in northern Japan.

Rail operators suspended most operations in greater Tokyo on Saturday and are expected to continue the suspensions Sunday as they worked to remove debris and ensure safety. Japan Central Railway, or JR Tokai, announced early Sunday morning that shinkansen services connecting Tokyo and Osaka will operate on the regular schedule starting from the first train.

Residents are taken to safety by boat in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 13 after a nearby river overflowed due to Typhoon Hagibis.   © Kyodo

Private railways in the Tokyo metropolitan areas, including subways, will likely remain suspended at least through Sunday morning. 

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued special heavy rain warnings on Saturday afternoon in 13 prefectures, including Tokyo, Gunma, Saitama, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka. The alert is the highest of the five levels of warnings. The warnings in Tokyo and Kanagawa have since been lifted. 

In Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo, one man in his fifties was found dead in an overturned car in the early morning. Police are investigating whether it was caused by strong winds due to the typhoon. In the city, several houses have been affected by strong winds and parts of their roof were blown off. Eight people have been injured.

A man walks in a flooded area in Ota, Tokyo, Japan on Oct. 12.   © Kyodo

In Gunma Prefecture, also near Tokyo, a man who went missing in a landslide was found dead. Eleven people were missing as of 3 a.m. Sunday and 80 people were injured. 

As 4:30 a.m., roughly 320,000 households in Tokyo and eight prefectures were without power, according to Tepco Power Grid. Within Chubu Electric Power's service area, roughly 60,000 households were affected by blackouts.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday instructed ministers to put every effort into emergency measures and gather information as quickly as possible when damage occurs due to the typhoon.

A car is seen partially submerged in a flooded residential area due to Typhoon Hagibis, near the Tama River in Kawasaki, Japan, October 13.   © Reuters

The Defense Ministry has ordered 17,000 personnel of the Self-Defense Forces to stay on alert and ready deploy immediately for rescue operations.

Tokyo's Narita Airport has stopped accepting incoming passenger flights because railways servicing the airport have halted their operations. In September, when another strong typhoon hit the area, more than 10,000 people were stuck at the airport because flights kept arriving after buses and railways stopped operating.

Most retail stores and restaurants suspended operation on Saturday. Seven-Eleven Japan operator Seven & i Holdings and department store group Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings closed stores. Sushiro Global Holdings, operator of a chain of conveyor belt sushi restaurants, closed 150 outlets in the Kanto and Tokai regions.

Tourist attractions such as Tokyo Disney Resort closed their doors and several concerts were canceled or postponed. The Rugby World Cup canceled two games on Saturday.

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