- Lionrock becomes first typhoon to make landfall in region
- Toyota halts production, thousands ordered to evacuate
Typhoon Lionrock made landfall in Japan’s Tohoku, the area devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, becoming the first typhoon to come onshore in the region since records began in 1951.
The storm came onshore at about 6 p.m. near Ofunato in Iwate prefecture, a city where 340 people were killed and almost 3,000 homes destroyed in the 2011 disasters. The cyclone took a boomerang-like route away from Japan before U-turning back over the past week and is expected to move faster over the northern part of the Japanese archipelago and into the Sea of Japan by tomorrow, where it will weaken into an extratropical cyclone.
Heavy rains have fallen, and more is expected across eastern and northern Japan, with more rain expected in 24 hours in parts of the country than in a typical month of August, the Japan Meteorological Agency earlier said. The risk of landslides is "very high" in areas of northern Japan on the Pacific coast, the agency said, with Kyodo News reporting of a landslide blocking a national highway in Iwate.
Evacuation orders were issued for more than 4,000 people in parts of Iwate prefecture, with thousands more advised to seek refuge. Citizens were told to be wary of "violent" winds and high waves near coastal areas. The Cabinet office warned of the dangers of flooding from rivers bursting their banks, and advised against unnecessary trips outdoors, though there were only limited reports of damage and injuries as the storm made landfall.
Toyota Motor Corp. earlier suspended production for two shifts at plants in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, where the automaker produces models including the Sienta and Prius c, spokeswoman Kayo Doi said by telephone. Plants are scheduled to resume production on Wednesday. Refiners in the region delayed shipments due to strong waves, public broadcaster NHK reported, with JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. and Cosmo Oil Co. halting deliveries from refineries in Ibaraki, Miyagi and Chiba prefectures.
Lionrock is the fourth typhoon to make landfall in Japan in 2016, with Typhoon Mindulle last week becoming the first in 11 year to hit vicinity of Tokyo. Four typhoons have now come onshore in each of the past three years. Landfalls in Japan are most common in August and September, though approaches by cyclones can continue as late as December.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the devastated Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, earlier braced for Lionrock’s arrival. Workers secured power cables, hoses and heavy machinery, and will "closely monitor" groundwater levels and seawater quality at the plant as the typhoon neared, according to the utility. The typhoon’s storm area had passed Fukushima prefecture as of 5:45 p.m., the weather agency said.
Transport services across Japan were affected, with Japan Airlines Co. canceling 59 domestic flights and ANA Holdings Inc. scrubbing 37 flights, according to statements from Japan’s two largest carriers. Some Shinkansen bullet trains on lines servicing northern Japan’s Akita and Hokkaido were halted, East Japan Railway Co. said, though there was little disruption in the nation’s capital.
Lionrock earlier prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to cut short his visit to Kenya, where he had been leading a conference on African development, to oversee preparation for the storm.