September 7, 2020 – East Asia: Millions ordered to evacuate as Typhoon Haishen hits Japan

More than 1.8 million people across six prefectures in southwestern Japan were ordered to evacuate immediately as Typhoon Haishen hit the region yesterday. Haishen brought strong winds and heavy rainfall in Southwestern Japan as it approached the Amami group of islands near Kyushu. Authorities recommended evacuation and warned of potentially record rainfall, landslides, unprecedented wind, high tides and large ocean swells in the affected areas. Haishen is categorized as a “large” and “extremely strong” typhoon. As of 12:45 AM (local time) it was centred in the East China Sea, about 110 kms southeast of the Goto Islands, west of Nagasaki, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA). The typhoon was predicted to head north-northwest and travel off the western coast of Kyushu early today before reaching South Korea, according to the JMA. The Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), Haishen, made landfall some 30 kms southwest of Ulsan, South Korea at around 9:00 AM (local time) earlier today.

Japan: At least 579 domestic flights scheduled for today were cancelled due to Typhoon Haishen. Most of the flights were to depart from or arrive at airports in the Kyushu, Shikoku and Chugoku regions of western Japan. All Nippon Airways said such cancellations will possibly continue until tomorrow for flights in southern Japan, such as Yamaguchi, Kochi and Fukuoka. Airlines urged travelers to check the latest flight information on their respective websites. Similarly, Shinkansen (bullet train) services were also temporarily suspended. Kyushu Railway Co. said its bullet and local train services will be suspended throughout today, while West Japan Railway Co. canceled Sanyo Shinkansen services between Hiroshima and Hakata stations for today. Meanwhile, the Kyushu Electric Power Company said more than 504,600 households in the Kyushu region were without power as of 11:00 PM (local time) yesterday. The power utility company said they will restore the power supply as soon as possible after the storm stops. Officials also urged residents to stay away from damaged and severed power lines as they could lead to electrocution. The 7-Eleven convenience store chain said it had closed more than 2,000 outlets across the area affected by the storm. FamilyMart Co. also closed 600 stores across seven prefectures including, Kyushu and in Okinawa Prefectures.

At least 30 people were injured after Haishen hit the coast off southwestern Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency Cabinet meeting yesterday to coordinate the government’s response to the typhoon, and warned of major flooding and landslides in affected areas. Abe warned residents to listen to local authorities and “take immediate action to protect your life,” adding that the country’s Self-Defense Forces were prepared to offer aid in the event of widespread damage. Authorities across Kyushu issued evacuation orders for nearly 2.5 million residents, particularly in Miyazaki, Fukuoka Prefecture, Saga Prefecture, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kumamoto Prefecture, Oita Prefecture, and Kagoshima Prefecture. However, evacuation orders are not compulsory, though authorities strongly urge people to follow them.

South Korea: As of 9:00 AM (local time), more than 300 flights were suspended nationwide, according to the Korea Airports Corporation. A typhoon alert has been issued for all of the country’s airports, including Incheon, Jeju and Ulsan. Typhoon Haishen was approaching northward to the southern port city of Busan earlier today. Authorities have evacuated almost 1,000 people, while entries to national parks and some national train services were also suspended, the country’s safety ministry said. Meanwhile, almost 5,000 households experienced power cuts in the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. In Ulsan, the typhoon led to power outages at the assembly lines of Hyundai Motors, at 8:30 AM (local time).
According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), Haishen was moving at a speed of 41 kmph over waters some 120 kms south of Busan, as of 6:00 AM (local time). It was predicted to move closest to Busan at around 9:00 AM (local time). The KMA said, after making landfall, it expects the typhoon to lose intensity, forecasting it to be downgraded to an extratropical cyclone within 24 hours. However, it is predicted to bring extremely heavy rainfall and strong winds, especially affecting the eastern regions. A typhoon alert was issued for the southern resort island of Jeju, Gyeongsang Province, and parts of Gangwon and the central provinces. The Korea Forest Service raised its landslide alert to its highest level, “serious,” for Busan, Ulsan, Jeju Island and South Gyeongsang, North Gyeongsang, Gangwon and South Jeolla provinces.

North Korea: Typhoon Haishen is expected to arrive in the port city of Chongjin later today. The country’s weather agency forecast that Haishen will reach the seas off the Kangwon Province at around 6:00 PM (local time) today. It is further expected to affect the coastal regions of Sinpo at around 9:00 PM (local time), before passing through South Hamgyong Province and moving on to China. The typhoon is predicted to bring heavy rainfall, strong winds and high tidal waves to the country’s eastern coast. According to the Korean Central News Agency, the government has employed “practical measures” to minimize damage from Haishen by informing people of locations of shelters and typhoon paths as well as how to “respond and behave”.

Assessment: The typhoon will likely continue to cause widespread damage across the affected areas. Authorities will remain on high alert and continue with restoration work. They will likely ramp up restoration efforts, especially restoration of power supply. Although the typhoon is expected to weaken into a tropical storm, it is still likely to bring heavy rainfall and thunderstorms over parts of Japan and the Korean Peninsula. It will possibly cause localized flooding and landslides in affected areas. Flash flooding is also likely to occur in major cities due to the incessant rainfall. There remains a perpetual risk of landslides, especially in mountainous areas, if rainfall continues. Damage to structures and property, including roads, bridges and crops, are also possible. Widespread damage to crops and food stock in North Korea could potentially cause chronic food shortages in the country. Expect further transportation, business, telecommunication and supply chain-related disruptions in the region.

Advice: Clients in Japan and the Korean Peninsula are advised to monitor the latest weather developments. Strictly adhere to instructions issued by the local emergency agencies. Those in the affected areas are advised to observe the level of water. Stay indoors until after the disturbances have left the area as there is an increased risk of flying debris during the storm. Prepare for potential power outages and flash flooding in urban and low-lying areas. Confirm route closures, road conditions and flight schedules before setting out. Stay away from damaged power lines, fallen bridges, buildings, fallen trees and flood water. Make emergency kits and stock up on essential resources. Prepare contingency plans for possible evacuation from the affected areas. Monitor alerts and advisories from APAC Assistance for further updates.

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