Hagibis, the 19th named storm of the season, tore through Japan’s main island of Honshu on Saturday and early Sunday packing winds of up to 144 kph at landfall, killing 35 and leaving 17 unaccounted for as of Sunday afternoon, according to Kyodo News. NHK reported 166 people were injured.
Cities and towns across the country — including in Nagano, Niigata, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures — were inundated by flood waters after levees failed in the face of record rainfall,forcing many people to abandon submerged homes.
The damage could worsen in the coming days as the water levels may rise along flooded rivers.
“I extend my condolences for all those who lost their lives and offer my sympathy to those who all those impacted by Typhoon (Hagibis),” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a ministerial meeting on the typhoon held at the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday.
Still, the damage and death toll could have been worse.
The nation has recently shown how quick it is able to react and prepare in the face of such potential calamities, with disaster awareness rising more and more among the public in recent years.
As Hagibis approached, authorities urged citizens “to take whatever actions necessary to increase your chances of survival.”
Residents stocked up on water, food and other supplies, leaving many supermarket shelves empty — something unseen since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Public transportation operators announced plans to suspend services days in advance out of safety concerns and an attempt to prevent chaos at transportation hubs.
As the typhoon crossed the country Saturday night, after making landfall on Shizuoka’s Izu Peninsula at about 7 p.m. on Saturday, its strong winds and heavy rains left much devastation in its path.
One of the areas hit hard by the storm was Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, where some residential areas were left submerged after the Tamagawa River flooded.
Roaring winds, which shook buildings, walls and windows, along with the heavy rains, led officials to issue an advisory urging millions to evacuate.
The storm was so strong that it caused a Panamanian cargo ship to sink in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, killing five people.
For many in Tokyo, Hagibis was a rude awakening, illustrating that they, too, are susceptible to natural disasters — especially to heavy rain. Such evacuation warnings are more commonplace in southern Japan, such as in Okinawa Prefecture, where typhoons hit on a regular basis.
Concerns are also growing that there may be more storms similar to Hagibis in the future due to climate change.
As dawn broke Sunday, those living in areas vulnerable to floods and landslides were beginning to take stock of the damage after a long and anxious night.
Photo Reuters Caption: Residential areas flooded by the Chikuma River are shown in this bird's-eye view after Typhoon Hagibis tore through Nagano on Saturday.