By Maria Roldan
Tokyo, Sep 6 (efe-epa).- Authorities on Sunday ordered the evacuation of more than 2 million people in southwest Japan as Typhoon Haishen advanced towards the region, causing flood alerts and major disruptions in rail and air traffic operations.
More than 430,000 people were ordered to evacuate immediately with Haishen reaching near Kagoshima, Kumamoto, and Okinawa Prefectures in the southwestern region of the country.
Another 2.67 million were urged to seek refuge at safer places, according to public broadcaster NHK.
The authorities have been urging people since Saturday for early evacuations to avoid possible human losses by the typhoon.
Some chose to seek refuge in hotels, which led to the full reservation of many establishments in the region, something unusual at this time of year, according to NHK.
Residents in some of the risky zones regions shared videos showing high-velocity winds and heavy rains and photographs of empty shelves of supermarkets after as people resorted to panic buying to stock essentials amid fears of daily life disruptions.
Haishen is the 10th typhoon of the season in the Pacific, classified as “very strong” by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
The weather office said the storm had weakened slightly but cautioned that it could still be the most powerful storm to hit the archipelago in decades.
It was moving at 30 km per hour in a north-northwest direction with the weather authorities warning the typhoon could bring winds of 180 km (112 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 252 km per hour.
They warned of torrential rains, waves, and storm surge in the Kyushu region between Sunday and Monday, and have urged the people to move to safer places.
Airlines, as a precautionary measure, have canceled 528 flights for Sunday, mostly to and from the southern parts of Kyushu and Okinawa.
More cancellations are likely on Monday.
Railway authorities have also canceled the Sanyo Shinkansen bullet train services between Hiroshima and Hakata stations through Monday and reduced the number of trains running between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima stations, NHK reported.
According to weather officials, the typhoon was 100 km southwest of the Tokara Islands and 100 km northeast of Amami Oshima Island, where more than 23,800 homes suffered power outages.
They said it was moving north at a speed of 20 km per hour.
The regional in Amami Oshima recommended on Saturday the evacuation of the entire population, 42,674 people, to 70 safety centers established on the island.
The typhoon is expected to hit the waters off Kyushu Island on Sunday night before its advance towards the Korean Peninsula on Monday.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transportation said there was a growing risk that the rains could cause overflows in major rivers in Kagoshima, Miyazaki, and Kumamoto prefectures.
The weather office estimated that more than 600 mm of rain could be recorded until 6 am on Monday in areas of southern Kyushu.