Seven killed, 15 missing as fierce typhoon pounds Tokyo

TOKYO — Seven people were killed and 15 were missing after the most powerful typhoon to hit Japan in decades paralyzed Tokyo, flooding rivers and leaving almost half a million homes without power, public broadcaster NHK reported Sunday.

Authorities lifted rain and flood warnings for the Kanto region around a becalmed Tokyo before dawn as the typhoon plowed up Japan’s northeast coast. Warnings for areas north of the capital began to be lifted by Sunday morning.

Typhoon Hagibis was expected to head out to sea on Sunday evening after churning its way up the northern island of Hokkaido.

Seven people were killed in areas including the Chiba, Gunma, Kanagawa and Fukushima prefectures surrounding Tokyo, NHK said. Among them was a man in his 60s who was found in a flooded apartment in Kawasaki, it said. Fifteen people were also missing early on Sunday, it said.

Millions of people had been warned earlier to evacuate.

Some 425,000 homes were without power, the government said, reviving fears of a repeat of the weeks-long power outages suffered after another typhoon hit east of Tokyo last month.

In Fukushima, north of the capital, Tokyo Electric Power Co reported irregular readings from sensors monitoring water in its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant overnight. The plant was crippled by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Heavy rain caused rivers to flood their banks in parts of Fukushima and Nagano prefectures, submerging houses and rice paddies and forcing some people to climb onto their roofs for safety.

Houses along the Chikuma river in Nagano were nearly under water and at least one person was rescued from the roof of a house by helicopter, NHK said. Part of a road was swept away in flooding.

Authorities issued evacuation advisories and orders for more than 6 million people across Japan as the storm unleashed the heaviest rain and winds in years. Some 100 injuries have been reported so far, NHK said.

The storm, which the government said could be the strongest to hit Tokyo since 1958, brought record-breaking rainfall in many areas, including the popular resort town of Hakone, which was hit with 37 inches of rain over 24 hours.

Hagibis, which means “speed” in the Philippine language Tagalog, made landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu on Saturday evening. A magnitude 5.7 earthquake shook Tokyo shortly after.

Major shinkansen bullet trains from Tokyo would begin on schedule Sunday, NHK said, while the Tokyo subway system was also operating.

One expert, Nobuyuki Tsuchiya, director of the Japan Riverfront Research Center, had earlier told Reuters that further flooding could occur as several surrounding prefectures began releasing water from dams, letting it flow downstream.

About 1.5 million people in Tokyo live below sea level.

The Japan Meteorological Agency had issued the highest alert level for 12 prefectures, warning of the potential for once-in-decades rain totals, but lifted them early on Sunday.

Just last month, another strong storm, Typhoon Faxai, destroyed or damaged 30,000 houses in Chiba, east of Tokyo, and caused extensive power outages.

The capital’s main airports, Haneda and Narita, stopped flights from landing and connecting trains were suspended, forcing the cancellation of more than a thousand flights.

The Rugby World Cup match between Namibia and Canada in Kamaishi on Sunday was canceled, although the crucial Japan-Scotland match was set to go ahead. Two matches were canceled on Saturday.

Formula One Grand Prix organizers had also canceled all practice and qualifying sessions scheduled for Saturday.