Up to eight million people living in Japan have been urged to evacuate as Typhoon Haishen batters the southern mainland.
Residents must exercise their “most serious caution”, Japan’s weather agency has warned amid the potential for record rainfall, unprecedented wind, high tides and large ocean swells.
On Monday morning (Australian time), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasised the need for people to take the “utmost caution”.
“To all citizens, especially those who are living in areas which have high possibility of having river flooding or high tides, please stay alert on the information from your local authorities,” he said at an emergency cabinet meeting.
“Please take immediate actions, such as to evacuate or (find) secure safety, to protect your life.”
Typhoon Haishen had already shut off power to about 180,000 homes, public broadcaster NHK said, adding that public transport services were suspended across seven prefectures in southern Japan.
Two injuries have so far been reported, according to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
“Areas where the typhoon passes are expected to see record-high winds and waves,” a meteorological official told a news conference.
The typhoon is forecast to have sustained winds up to 234km/h by Monday, the meteorological agency said.
Concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in public shelters, many residents have sought hotel rooms instead.
“I am worried about coronavirus infections. We’re with small children too, so we did not want other people to see us as big trouble,” an elderly resident told NHK after checking into a hotel with seven relatives.
Authorities urged early evacuation for more than 100,000 households in the southern prefectures of Okinawa, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Nagasaki, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA).
Elderly citizens wearing face masks due to the coronavirus outbreak were slowly gathering at evacuation centres in Kagoshima and other parts of southern Japan.
The typhoon’s centre was near Yakushima, an island about 100km south of Kagoshima city, on Sunday, moving northwest at 30km/h.
The typhoon was forecast to approach the Goto Islands west of Nagasaki about midnight and then move to the Korean peninsula on Monday.
Japan’s coastguard on Saturday suspended its search for crew missing from a cattle ship, including two Australians, that capsized in the East China Sea for a second day because of the typhoon.
Typhoon Haishen follows Typhoon Maysak, which smashed into the Korean peninsula on Thursday, leaving at least two dead and thousands temporarily without power.