More than 1 million people in Japan have been ordered to leave their homes as Typhoon Hagibis hit Tokyo, having already caused power outages, flooding and widespread travel disruption.
The storm is 870 miles (1,400km) wide, with gusts of up to 134mph. Hagibis is being compared to a typhoon in 1958 that killed 1,200 people and caused destruction across the Tokyo area and Shizuoka prefecture.
The death toll from the latest storm is unlikely to be anywhere near as high due to Japan’s stringent building safety standards and comprehensive disaster warning systems. Emergency alerts accompanied by loud chimes are being sent directly to tens of millions of smartphones in the affected areas.
According to news agency reports, two people have died during the typhoon. A 50-year-old man was killed near Tokyo early on Saturday as his car was overturned by punishing winds, while another person died after being washed away in a car, public broadcaster NHK said. Nine people remain missing in landslides and flooding, it said.
The centre of the storm hit Tokyo at about 9pm local time (1pm GMT) on Saturday.
More than 60 have been reported injured, including a large number of children.
Evacuation orders have been issued to more than 800,000 households across 11 prefectures.
More than 210,000 households are without power across the Kanto region and Shizuoka prefecture, and 17,000 Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel have been placed on standby for rescue operations.
Storm surges and high waves raised sea levels by 1 metre (3.2ft) along parts of the coastline, while waters in Tokyo bay are up by half a metre, increasing the danger of severe flooding in the centre of the capital.
Authorities have said they will release water from Shiroyama dam, south of Tokyo, at 10pm local time to reduce the danger of it bursting. They have urged residents of six nearby cities to take measures to protect themselves as severe flooding is expected due to the discharge of water into an area deluged by torrential rain.
By Saturday morning, roofs had been ripped off houses in Chiba prefecture, which is still recovering from a typhoon last month that killed three people, injured more than 40 and left hundreds of thousands of homes without power.
A local resident told the public broadcaster, NHK: “When the winds suddenly hit, they blew the roof off my house. The noise was awful. One of my three children was injured but is now in a hospital.”
Adding to the danger of landslides, an earthquake measuring 4 on the Japanese intensity scale, which ranges from 1 to 7, hit Chiba shortly before 6.30pm on Saturday.
In addition to the 800,000 people already ordered to move to evacuation shelters, evacuation warnings have been issued to nearly 8 million people. Up to 60cm (24in) of rain is expected in some areas by Sunday morning.
All fast trains and most flights in and out of the Kanto region around Tokyo were cancelled by Saturday morning, while England’s Rugby World Cup Rugby game with France was cancelled on Friday. A decision will be taken on Sunday morning as to whether Japan’s game against Scotland can go ahead.
Japan’s meteorological agency issued its highest warning level on Saturday afternoon, urging the more than 45 million residents of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Gunma, Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures to find a secure building or move to higher floors.
Tokyo city government has opened an evacuation centre in the Ueno district for tourists stranded by the transport shutdown.
Authorities in Sagamihara, south-west of Tokyo, said they may have to release water from the Shiroyama dam, which is in danger of bursting. They have warned residents of the area near the dam to evacuate because large-scale flooding around the Sagami River is likely if they discharge the water.