People watch the Isuzu River swollen by Typhoon Hagibis, in Ise, central Japan Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Tokyo and surrounding areas braced for a powerful typhoon forecast as the worst in six decades, with streets and trains stations unusually quiet Saturday as rain poured over the city. (Kyodo News via AP)

Heavy rain, winds lash Tokyo as strong typhoon approaches

October 12, 2019 - 2:15 am

TOKYO (AP) — A heavy downpour and strong winds pounded Tokyo and surrounding areas on Saturday as a powerful typhoon forecast as the worst in six decades approached landfall, with streets and train stations deserted and shops shuttered.

Store shelves were bare after people stocked up on water and food. Nearby beaches had not a surfer in sight, only towering dashing waves.

Typhoon Hagibis, closing in from the Pacific, brought heavy rainfall in wide areas of Japan ahead of its landfall, including Shizuoka and Mie prefectures, southwest of Tokyo, as well as Chiba to the north, which had suffered power outages and damaged homes from last month's typhoon.

Under gloomy skies, a tornado ripped through Chiba on Saturday, overturning a car in the city of Ichihara and killing a man inside, city official Tatsuya Sakamaki said. Five people were also injured when the tornado ripped through a house. Their injuries were not life-threatening, Sakamaki said.

The rains caused rivers to swell, flipped anchored boats and whipped up sea waters in a dangerous surge along the coast, flooding some residential neighborhoods and leaving people to wade in ankle-deep waters. Authorities also warned of mudslides, common in mountainous Japan.

Rugby World Cup matches, concerts and other events have been canceled. Flights were grounded and train services halted. Authorities acted quickly, with warnings issued earlier this week, including urging people to stay indoors.

Some residents taped up their apartment windows in case they shattered. TV talks shows showed footage of household items like a slipper bashing through glass when hurled by winds as powerful as the approaching typhoon.

The typhoon that hit the Tokyo region in 1958 left more than 1,200 people dead and a half-million houses flooded.

Some 17,000 police and military troops have been called up, standing ready for rescue operations.

Hagibis, which means "speed" in Filipino, was advancing north-northwestward with maximum sustained winds of 162 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. It was expected to make landfall near Tokyo later Saturday, unleashing up to 55 millimeters (20 inches) of rains and then blow out to sea eastward.

Evacuation advisories have been issued for risk areas, including Shimoda city, west of Tokyo. Dozens of evacuation centers were opening in coastal towns, and people were resting on gymnasium floors, saying they hoped their homes were still there after the storm passed.

The storm has disrupted this nation's three-day weekend, which includes Sports Day on Monday. Qualifying for a Formula One auto race in Suzuka was pushed to Sunday. The Defense Ministry cut a three-day annual navy review to a single day on Monday.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines grounded most domestic and international flights scheduled Saturday at the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports. Central Japan Railway Co. said it will cancel all bullet train service between Tokyo and Osaka except for several early Saturday trains connecting Nagoya and Osaka. Tokyo Disneyland was closed.

Ginza department stores and smaller shops throughout Tokyo shuttered ahead of the typhoon.

Mike Alsop, 57-year-old executive coach from England, was visiting Japan for the World Rugby tournament, but was left stranded at an abandoned Tokyo train station.

"We were hoping to watch England play against France today, disappointed that we won't be able to but completely understand it," he said.

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Associated Press journalist Haruka Nuga contributed to this report.

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