The first fatality of Typhoon Hagibis has been reported as the storm, the strongest to hit Japan in decades, edges closer to making landfall with the country's main island.
According to NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, a man from Ichihara, a city in Chiba Prefecture, was killed on Saturday morning when his vehicle was flipped over. The man was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The area had earlier been hit by a tornado, which injured at least four, including two children, NHK added. The storm has also knocked out power to about ten thousand homes across the region.
Typhoon Hagibis has begun reaping devastation along the Pacific coast of the country’s main island, with residents in the most vulnerable areas leaving their homes and taking shelter in evacuation centres.
Hagibis, which has been classified as “very strong” by the Japan Meteorological Agency, is advancing on a northerly path over the south of Honshu. It’s set on a collision course with Tokyo and the wider Kanto region, which is set to experience record-breaking rain and winds. The storm is due to make landfall on Saturday evening.
Fears have been raised that the storm, which is generating gusts of up to 145mph, could match the fury of the 1958 Kanogawa Typhoon, one of the deadliest on record, which killed more than 1,200 people when it hit Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture.
With the worst-hit areas of the Honshu island set to be deluged by close to three feet of rain in a 24-hour period, the Japan Meteorological Agency has issued emergency warnings of flooding, mudslides and storm surges as high as 42 feet along the coast. Tokyo is predicted to see two feet of downpour.
Thousands within Chiba Prefecture have sought cover at emergency evacuation centres, taking refuge in schools, temples, and other municipal buildings. Japan Meteorological Agency has warned that houses in the region could be blown over in the violent winds.
Some supermarkets had ran out of bottled water and batteries by Friday afternoon, after officials advised residents in the area to prepare supplies for up to three days. The Chiba Prefecture remains particularly vulnerable to the oncoming storm, having yet to fully recover from the effects of Typhoon Faxai which damaged buildings and left 900,000 people without power.
Typhoon Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, has already forced the cancellation of two matches at the Rugby World Cup – England’s clash with France and New Zealand’s encounter against Italy – while the Pool A decider between Japan and Scotland remains on red alert.
As of Saturday morning, the typhoon was considered the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane under the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale used in the United States.