Some 110,000 rescuers have come to the aid of the inhabitants trapped by the numerous floods.
It’s been one of the most powerful typhoons ever to hit Japan. Typhoon Hagibis briefly paralysed the capital Tokyo, where at least 56 deaths were reported on Monday.
Submerged houses, landslides, furying streams: the record-heavy rainstorm has wreaked havoc across central and eastern Japan on Saturday night. Residents were buried in landslides, drowned in their homes or in their water-washed vehicles, including a child whose body was found in a river. NHK warned that the extent of the damage was just beginning to appear, with many areas still under water.
Significant flooding still affected the central Nagano region, where a dike dropped, spilling the waters of the Chikuma River into a residential area whose homes were flooded to the first floor. “Currently 110,000 police, firefighters, coastguards and Self-Defense Forces are doing their best in search and rescue operations and this should continue all night,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Among them, 31,000 soldiers equipped with 130 aircraft. Images of the NHK showed one of their helicopters hauling residents from the rooftops in the Nagano area.
An “unprecedented” intensity
Some four million people were still affected by Sunday evacuation instructions. More than 135,000 had followed these non-binding notices and were in shelters. The “unprecedented” intensity of rainfall according to the Japanese Weather Agency (JMA) had pushed it to issue its maximum rainfall warning level, reserved for foreseeable disaster situations. Typhoon Hagibis had arrived on Saturday shortly before 7pm and reached the Japanese capital around 9pm, accompanied by wind gusts of up to 200 km/h.
Up to half a million households have been deprived of electricity. In Higashi Matsuyama, in the Saitama region, rice and flower growers were counting their losses on Sunday as the water flooded into warehouses full of fresh crops. Typhoon Hagibis also paralysed transport in the greater Tokyo area, in this extended weekend by a holiday Monday. Train traffic resumed Sunday, but Tokyo’s air links were only partially restored. More than 800 flights were canceled for the day, according to the NHK.
The storm also disrupted the organisation of two sports competitions held in Japan: the Suzuka Formula 1 Grand Prix qualifiers were postponed until Sunday morning, while two Rugby World Cup matches which were to be held on Saturday (France-England and New Zealand-Italy) had been canceled as early as Thursday. A third match, Namibia-Canada, scheduled for Sunday at Kamaishi, was also canceled. A heartbreaker for this town almost scratched from the map by the tsunami of 2011 and who saw in this meeting a symbol of its resurrection.
Japan is hit by twenty typhoons each year. Before Typhoon Hagibis, Faxai had killed at least two people in early September and caused extensive damage to Chiba.
The rising intensity of such natural disasters is another consequence of global warming. The last IPCC report on global warming is very clear on the possible dramatic consequences human kind faces.