THE strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years made landfall on Tuesday, with more than a million people urged to evacuate to escape violent winds and heavy rainfall.
Typhoon Jebi, with winds of up to 216km/h (135mph), made landfall around midday in southwestern Japan near areas still recovering from deadly record rain earlier this summer.
It was moving fast on a northeast track, reaching the city of Kobe by early afternoon.
More than 700 flights were cancelled, including several international flights departing and arriving at Nagoya and Osaka, along with ferries, local train services and some bullet train lines.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged people to evacuate early and ordered his government to take all necessary measures to protect residents.
Japan’s weather agency warned of possible landslides, flooding and violent winds, as well as high tides, lightning and tornadoes in a swathe of the Japanese archipelago including the major cities of Osaka and Kyoto as well as Tokyo.
Arriving on land, Jebi had winds of up to 162 kilometres (100 miles) per hour at its centre, classing it a “very strong” typhoon, the weather agency’s chief forecaster Ryuta Kurora said.
“This is [the strongest] since 1993.”
As the storm approached, Abe called a disaster response meeting and cancelled a trip to western Japan.
“I urge the Japanese people to take action to protect your lives, including preparing and evacuating early,” Kurora said.
He instructed his cabinet to “take all measures possible”.
Evacuation advisories were issued for 1.19 million people in western and central Japan, with another 16,000 people issued with stronger but non-mandatory evacuation orders, the fire and disaster management agency said.
Local media warned that the wind was strong enough to topple traditional-style wooden houses and power poles, and urged people in affected areas to avoid non-essential travel.
Television footage showed high waves crashing into breakers and debris flying through the air in areas where the storm first made landfall.
Primary and middle schools were closed while regional businesses also reacted quickly, and a major railway firm and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka shutting down for Tuesday.