TOKYO (Reuters) – Tropical Storm Meari unleashed heavy rain on Japan’s main island of Honshu on Saturday as it tracked north toward the capital Tokyo, Japanese weather officials said.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said Meari made landfall in Shizuoka prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, in the afternoon, bringing sudden heavy rain and strong winds to a wide area and triggering warnings of mudslides and floods.
More than 72,000 people in the main city of Shizuoka have been ordered to evacuate due to possible landslides.
Packing sustained winds of up to 72 kilometers (45 miles) per hour, Meari passed over Shizuoka and was moving at a speed of around 20 km (12 miles) per hour. The storm was expected to continue north before turning east, swinging over the Pacific Ocean on Sunday morning.
The Tokyo area was hammered by periodic downpours starting Saturday morning. High wave warnings in coastal areas have been issued for Tokyo; Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of the capital; and other neighboring regions.
Authorities have warned against approaching rivers and other waters as levels could rise suddenly. Rainfall is expected to worsen in Tokyo and areas to the north in the evening, they said. Warnings of flooding, high winds and heavy rain have been issued for the Tokyo area.
Japanese media showed videos of dangerously rising rivers, almost reaching bridges, as rain splashed on homes and people rushed through the streets, clinging to their umbrellas.
Japan is in the midst of Bon’s summer vacation and vacationers are traveling in droves, although some have had to cancel or change their plans.
The 2022 Rock in Japan Festival, which kicked off a week ago in Chiba prefecture, east of Tokyo, canceled Saturday’s event, the last day of the outdoor festival, and promised ticket refunds .
All Nippon Airways canceled some local flights in response to the storm. Low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines has also canceled some flights. Bullet train services were delayed and speed limits in Shizuoka tunnels were temporarily lowered as a precaution. Sections of the Tomei Expressway, which connects Tokyo to Nagoya, were temporarily blocked due to heavy rain.
Northern Japan has had heavy rains lately and concerns were growing about landslides. Precipitation is expected to decrease by Sunday morning in the Tokyo area before affecting northeastern Japan.
The world’s third-largest economy has often seen death and injury caused by seasonal storms and torrential rains that damage dams, blow off roofs and bring down power lines.